When I heard the news yesterday about Pastor Rick Warren’s son dying by suicide it brought back a flood of emotions and feelings for me. I remembered the night call…falling to the floor, crying out to God and feeling utterly shocked. There was the disbelief and the hope that it was all wrong; that someone had made a mistake. There was the feeling of abandonment and persecution from God; that He allowed this horror to take place and that I was being punished for something that I had done or didn’t do. These did not go away over night….they plagued me for some time. This was the beginning of a long spiritual warfare.
As a Christian for most of my life, I have always had a deep faith in God. I guess I had never truly been tested. This was my Abraham moment…my Job moment….but I felt like I had failed because of my initial reaction. I can’t really put into words all of those negative attacks…those words…the thoughts…a host of emotions balled into one tearing at my soul. The first thing I had to do was pray and ask God to replace the images in my head and give me peace or I would not be able to make it through. It seemed contradictory to my feeling toward God but I was not going to give up on God. I knew that I had to pray because prayer has always seen me through up to this point…and it had always been the way my son handled things, too. We had a relationship with our Lord.
I have grown in my faith since that day. I have learned so much more about God’s grace than ever in my life. I no longer have the anger towards Him as I did in the beginning. I have learned that God has my child….my wonderful son, who was depressed. In no uncertain terms, God has allowed me to know what I needed to know about my son’s fate…that He loves my son more than I do. He cared so much for my son that He whisked him away to Heaven so he would not be terrorized anymore. Brandon is at peace more than he ever was here where his mind and emotions betrayed him.
Because of my own misunderstandings about suicide and sin, I had thought that my son was unforgiven. The world is unforgiving in its understanding of this act….the end result of a terminal disease known as mental illness. To the world in its judgment, a suicide is bound for hell because they can’t ask for forgiveness….a ridiculous thought. There are even certain religions that believe this way. Jesus died for all sin..yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is freeing to know that a person’s last act does not condemn them. Our Lord loves us too much for that.
On March 6, 2009, we lived in a historic neighborhood in Alabama. We had renovated a home that was built in 1849 and turned it into our dream of a bed and breakfast. Our three children supported our idea to move from our lifelong home in Florida to pursue our dream. We had only been living there for 3 years when our most devastating loss happened. We lived two and a half hours from where our children lived.
Although, I was not there when my son died by a gunshot wound to the head, my mind went wild. I can barely type it now, even though it has been 4 years. I imagined the scene and how my son must have felt to do such a thing. I remembered our conversation just that morning on the phone. I even remarked to him how happy he sounded and how glad I was to hear that in his voice. He spoke to us for 17 minutes. (It is recorded in his cell phone that I now possess.) He often called us and that morning he was calling to give us his new cell number….a number we would never use.
My nights are long and I have clung to God and begged for His mercy the peace that passes all understanding. I have received it over and over because He is patient with me. My most prized possession was taken from me and I cannot get over it…only through it with God’s help.
I know that I am not alone on this long road to healing from grief. Death of any kind is sad to those left behind but as it has been revealed to me…this is a “complicated” loss. There are so many more questions that leave us shaking our heads. My heart is with the Warren family as I know what lies ahead. Even in our deepest faith we can still experience deep pain. No one is exempt from the trials that await us….most especially Christians who are told by Christ: John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I recommend to any Christian these books written by Charles Spurgeon, “Spiritual Warfare in a Believer’s Life” and “Finding Peace in Life’s Storms.”