Purposeless-Driven Suicide: Matthew Warren and Me

Edvard Munch's "The Scream"

The news today tells a dismal tale –

“At 27 years of age, Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many,” Warren, the popular author of The Purpose Driven Life, said in the letter. “Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.”

Matthew Warren, one of three children of Warren and his wife, Kay, killed himself Friday, the evangelical pastor said in the letter.

“No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now,” Warren wrote. “He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.”

“In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”  (from The Huffington Post)

As a person of faith living with a mental illness who has attempted suicide, this story is all too familiar with me.  It creates in me both a feeling a grateful relief (that I was rescued from death) as well as a bewildered sense of survivor’s guilt.

I want to feel angry.  But who would I be angry at?

Society?

The church?

The mental health establishment?

God?

I suppose I could concoct stories showing how each fell short to save Matthew’s life, but in the end, in spite of aggressive efforts from many sources, he was the one who chose to give up.  Just like I did (though I lived to tell about it).

It’s been almost 5 years now since I tried to end my life.  I’m happy to say I’m enjoying relative balance – on medication, through prayer, in counseling, at church, as I write.  I still struggle with depression, but I don’t fear I will follow in Matthew’s footsteps.

Recently, I wrote an autobiographical poem that includes my suicide attempt and this brief reflection –

Some people ask me now how someone who claims

To be in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ

Could try to kill himself.

 

I don’t have a good answer.

I only know that though I’ve wanted to give up on God,

God hasn’t given up on me.

 

I’d like to hear from you.  How have you been impacted by Matthew’s death?  By mental illness?  By suicide?  How has it affected your faith?

 

(image above – Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” from Amy Larson onto I see a red door and I want it painted black)

23 thoughts on “Purposeless-Driven Suicide: Matthew Warren and Me

  1. I don’t know who Matthew is but I can relate to suicide all to well. Not personally at least, but when I was only 12 years old my cousin who was my best friend at the time was 16 and killed herself.

    Maybe that is why the thought of it is never even a possibility within my life. I saw how hard it was on the survivors. I felt it.
    She has not been the only one in my life to take their own life, a very close family friend as well as way too many classmates from my 1989 High School graduating class (I think in the range of 7).

    I am glad you are fighting your demons. I enjoy your posts. Keep it up!

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Suicide is certainly extremely difficult for loved ones who survive.

      I will keep fighting (with faith and help). I appreciate your encouragement.

  2. Glad you are still around Tony. Thanks for sharing this story. For some reason I was thinking about that young man today.

    • Thank you, Amy. Matthew’s death has no doubt affected a great many people. I only pray while there is no purpose in suicide, there may be redemptive purpose in its aftermath.

  3. Our church finished using one of Rick Warren’s books and video series for a six-week Bible study not that long ago; living in Southern California (not Orange County, but still) brings this story close to home, physically. I wrote another post just last week about one of the loves of my life who committed suicide five years ago (http://starvingactivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/irresistable-shares-time-marches/). I don’t know all the details of why he made his decision because unfortunately we had been a part for quite a few years. However, I am occasionally in touch with his sister and we continue to mourn in different ways.

    I am always saddened when I hear that someone has taken their own life but as I posted in a follow-up response to a prompt (http://starvingactivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/daily-post-redemption-reminder/) I believe that none of us are beyond redemption. We are just people and cannot know how God reacts to our pain; He desires us all to be saved and knows that in varying ways and “degrees” we all fall short of His glory.

    Also am glad you continue to fight the fight, and am honored that you would share your experience.

    • It’s a great mystery. No doubt God’s redemptive reach exceeds our ability to resist. Yet, we are held accountable for our actions and, no matter how tragic the circumstances, suicide is a supreme rejection of God’s gracious gift of life.

      I appreciate your encouraging words and your faithful support.

  4. Hi Tony,

    I’d not read about Matthew and didn’t know of him but I was moved by his story. It reminded me of someone I knew years ago who took his life when he discovered his wife was having an affair. His wife, his family, these things were the bedrock of his world and he couldn’t live without them. He lost faith in everything. A kinder, gentler man, I never knew.

    Who to blame? Society? It plays its part I suppose, in making those of us who are ill at ease with it vulnerable to mental illness – myself included from time to time. The Church? I must admit, I see God differently these days and no longer blame God for the tragedies in my own life, or feel let down. I don’t think God can intervene in every tragedy but feels our pain all the same, and there’s some comfort in that. Mental Health services? They do the best they can under near impossible circumstances, but there are always funding issues, and miracle cures for an ailing soul are elusive.

    I too am glad you’re still around and writing. I know the writing helps me. It’s like a pressure valve. When it blows I write – and I write a lot.

    Regards

    Michael

  5. Tony,

    Glad you are still around to share your thoughts and make the blogging world a better place! This is a tough subject. When someone reaches a point that makes this a viable option they may understand what this young man was dealing with. I don’t wish this type of despair on anybody because I fear that it is a test that we all have the possibility of failing. If your post makes one person realize the dangerous slide they are on and it helps turn them around, it is more than worth it.

    Keep up the fight

    Wayne

    • Thank you, Wayne, for your considerate words.

      You’ve captured the essence of what I hope this post might accomplish.

      In Biblical terms, I want people (even in the depths of despair) to “choose life” and trust that the Author of life will lead us to better days ahead.

  6. Thanks for sharing your personal story – I’m so glad that at this point you’ve found some “relative balance” as you put it and when low points come, I pray that the knowledge of God’s continuing care will carry you through.

  7. I came across a newspaper article about Matthew quite by accident when I was searching for something relating to Les Miserable (how ironic). When I opened the link to the newspaper, the first thing I saw was the “most read” articles. The top one was “Rick Warren’s son commits suicide”. I read the article, which had reproduced Pastor Warren’s letter to his church, and felt an immense sense of sadness. Sadness for Matthew and sadness for his family and friends.

    When I was in my early twenties, a young man at my church choked to death eating his lunch at work. He was alone at the time and wasn’t found for an hour or more. He was the only child of an older couple. His mother took an overdose of sleeping pills in the grief of losing her only child. His father hung himself in the despair of losing his son and his wife.My reaction at the time was one of self-righteous judgement – “How can they call themselves Christians and commit suicide. They should have taken it to the Lord.”

    I blush with shame now when I think back to my arrogance and lack of love. I’ve been through depression and thoughts of suicide and met with the same lack of love as I felt towards that family. It’s only by the grace of God and the support of my doctor that I’m writing this.

    Tony, like the other commenters, I am grateful to God that you are still with us to share encouraging, funny and thought provoking posts – God bless you.

  8. I struggled with depression most of my life, but never to the point of suicide attempts. I did have times where I wanted to hurt myself, but never could bring myself to take my life. I did have someone I loved very much take their own life. He was bipolar and had a long history of mental illness and drug use. He believed in God and wanted to be healed, but he was tortured everyday on the inside. Its all a very long story, but its one that helped shaped who I am today and how I feel about suicide in general. Even 8+yrs later, it still hurts (though God has healed a lot), but I now have a deeper compassion with those struggling with those thoughts.

  9. A thoughtful and insightful post. You communicate well, and to good purpose. I am thankful that you were unsuccessful in your own attempt, and I will pray for continued peace in your conscious self….
    Blessings – DEREK

  10. I have no wise words
    No answers,
    Just gratitude:
    Thank you for
    Being here.

    Life is a struggle for believers and non-believers alike, as well as for those who aren’t sure which of those categories they fall under. I often think that believers suffering from depression and the arrows life flings at them have it worse, because belief means that in some way, the arrows that pierce them have been flung by God. Such wounds don’t close easily.

  11. I really enjoyed your post about Matthew Warren. I didn’t know how to respond to his suicide myself. I understood it from a personal perspective but nevertheless I was truly saddened for his family. I am just now getting comfortable speaking about my illness and my own suicide attempt. I will become more bold as time goes by.

    Kevin

    • Kevin –

      Thank you so much for reading my post and commenting. It took me a great while to talk about my suicide as well. I pray as you tell your story, you might shine some light for people walking in deep darkness.

      Come back again, any time.

  12. I’m rather late to the scene. I knew who Matt was… and just finding this out has been overwhelmingly sad. I didn’t know about his death because we stopped talking.

    I’ve often wanted to call him in spite of his wishes not to call to see how he was doing, but never did because I thought he meant it. I regret not calling sooner. It was comforting reading your posts after scouring through a mess of posts churned out by mainstream media. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much, Aidrana, for responding with these personal and heart-felt words. I know how much Matthew’s death affected me simply as a person with a mental illness. I can only imagine the depth of sorrow experienced by those who knew him.

      I’m also very grateful you found my words comforting. I wanted to “mourn with those who mourn” even as I struggled with the senselessness of suicide.

      I will be praying for God to turn your sadness into joy, your tears into laughter. Maybe not right away, but in God’s good time.

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