Rick Warren is the pastor of Saddleback Church and wrote the bestseller Purpose Driven Life. Not many people, including myself, knew that mental illness was a challenge Rick Warren’s family had been going through until the tragic news of his youngest son’s suicide.
It took courage, grace and the love of God for a ‘high profile’ pastor as Rick, to speak through his grief and tell the world his pain. Speak through the sorrow of losing a dear son.
Rick and his wife Kay, did not speak in riddles either. They clearly spoke up and did not hold back an issue that is all too common but kept hushed because of discrimination of mental illness even in the church. These were parents clearly spelling out what a catastrophic, messy grief it was to lose a son this way. Now that is very commendable and must have helped many families at the time who have been or are in similar situations.
Since then Rick has certainly turned his pain into helping others. The remarkable work his church and ministry is doing is to be applauded. But meanwhile there may be other Rick Warrens, i.e. church pastors, who are themselves suffering in silence, and do not have such fearless boldness to come forward, or worse are ostracized by the very people they look to for kindness and support.
What happens when mental illness strikes a pastor’s family?
When mental illness strikes the pastor’s family it looks like the pastor could do with a lot of help themselves too. Everyone looks up to the pastor which is natural when one is in a leadership capacity. He/she is the one with this high calling that has been sent as a messenger from God. He/she is the one many think as God’s best friends, the one in God’s inner circle where they and God share top secret stuff.
So in our eyes, it can be unfathomable to comprehend how mental illness has the audacity to strike the family of a pastor? Our mindset however needs to be sharpened and cultivated so that when mental illness strikes a pastor’s family, we do not think any less of the pastor.
Don’t think these 5 things when mental illness strikes a pastor’s family:
##1 We should not think that the pastor is no longer a man or woman of God
Remember the gifts and callings of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29). God never takes back His gift. The fact that calamity has struck the pastor’s home does not mean they are no longer servants of God. If you have been blessed by the pastor, now is not the time to start flocking out of his church or switching channels anytime you see them on TV.
##2 We should not think what has happened as necessary judgement from God
We can be quick to think that perhaps the pastor has done something that God is not happy with, or has sinned…Hence the trouble. We cannot afford to be judgmental in our thinking. We are not called to be church critics or spiritual analyst either. We certainly did not appoint the pastor, and therefore should not be pointing fingers.
##3 We should not think that the pastor is spiritually deficient
When trouble hits a pastor’s home, it does mean the pastor has not been reading His Bible, practicing what he/she preaches, or is negligent in praying for their own family. Jesus did not promise anyone that trouble will not come (John 16:33). Challenges can and will come, but we have the words of the Master that says we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). It does us good in the long run and even help our faith life to see things in this light in this situation.
##4 We should not see the pastor as a ‘bad’ parent or neglectful spouse
The work of a pastor takes grace, and grace in abundance. Pastors lay their lives down for the congregation even to the extent of not spending as much time with their family. Not by choice but sometimes because the work of God must go on. Many have been called but fled. For those that answered, we need to encourage rather than label them.
God certainly takes care of their family when they are doing God’s work, but we still need to be God’s extended Hand offering love, prayer, support and help where there are gaps. When we can do this, we can make the pastor’s work lighter, so in turn they can look after us more effectively!
##5 We should not be quick to spread rumors
In the Bible, one of Lot’s son, Ham, discovered his father, Lot, drunk and naked and went about telling his other brothers, thus exposing his father’s nakedness (Genesis 9:22). When Lot discovered this, he was extremely disappointed in his son and things did not turn out well for Ham in the end.
The pastor needs support in this difficult times. Though you can’t stop people snickering and making snide comments, you can ensure that you are not one such aide.
Rick Warren in his moment of crisis, received many comforting letters from people he had even helped and led to Christ. We can be one of these people too when mental illness strikes a pastor’s family.
When we reach out to God’s servants when mental illness strikes their loved ones, we are reaching out to the Church as a whole. As we do, we can and will make a stand against mental illness positively. It means we can help everyone defy mental illness and put a full stop to stigma and discrimination.
Do you know a pastor who has been through difficulty or challenges in his or her family with mental illness. Do you have any comments you can add to the above? Please comment below. Please share this to someone who is disillusioned in their faith walk with their pastor because of challenges the pastor is facing in their family with mental illness.