Jarrid Wilson, a Southern California megachurch pastor and mental health advocate, died by suicide Monday.
Wilson, 30, was associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, under Pastor Greg Laurie. He co-founded Anthem of Hope, a mental health nonprofit helping people dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. He is survived by his wife, Julianne, and two sons, Finch and Denham.
The tragic news shocked and saddened the Christian community.
“At a time like this, there are just no words,” Laurie said in a statement Tuesday. “The Bible says, ‘There is a time to mourn.’ This is certainly that time.”
“Jarrid loved the Lord and had a servant’s heart,” the senior pastor said. “He was vibrant, positive, and was always serving and helping others…He wanted to especially help those who were dealing with suicidal thoughts.”
Julianne Wilson posted a tribute to her “loving, giving, kind-hearted, encouraging, handsome, hilarious, give the shirt off his back husband” on Instagram, adding, “Suicide doesn’t get the last word.”
“Your life’s work has led thousands to the feet of Jesus and your boldness to tell others about your struggle with anxiety and depression has helped so many other people feel like they weren’t alone,” she said. “YOU WERE an ANTHEM OF HOPE to everyone, baby, and I’ll do my best to continue your legacy of love until my last breath.”
Hours before he took his life, Jarrid Wilson tweeted a message about suicide.
“Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts,” he wrote. “But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that.”
Wilson killed himself during Suicide Awareness month, a time he usually spent talking about suicide prevention.
Laurie comforted his grieving flock with Romans 8:39, which says that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” He added that “one dark moment in a Christian’s life cannot undo what Christ did for us on the cross.”
Messages and tributes have been pouring in from pastors, worship leaders, and fellow believers from across the nation, expressing heartbreak, sadness, and offering prayers.
Jarrid Wilson authored four books, including “Jesus Swagger” and “Love Is Oxygen,” and wrote three opinion pieces for the Fox News Faith section: “Stop complicating God’s will,” “Jesus is proof crying is not a sign of weakness: It’s Ok to not be OK,” and “God has a purpose for your pain.”
He sent another piece to be published this month calling on churches and church leaders to do more on mental health.
“We NEED the church to step up in its efforts to be more vocal in regards to mental illness. Whether that be through a sermon series, free resources, supporting other non-profits or even a cultivating a designated yearlong ministry,” he wrote. “Regardless, the church should be at the frontlines of this battle. People need a safe place where they can be honest and transparent with what they are going through.”
Wilson wrote about contemplating suicide and said he found no resources in the church to help him cope with depression. Instead heard people saying, “Just have faith” — but that didn’t help.
“All the counselling and help I received came years after I actually needed it, and it was found in the secrecy of a local medical facility, not a church—where it should have been all along,” he said.
Harvest Christian Fellowship posted this along with Wilson’s Memoriam:
“If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at tel:1-800-273-TALK (8255).”
Offering a new Christian view of mental health:
A recent post on Wilson’s blog challenged the belief that those who died by suicide are condemned to hell. He reasoned that mental illness can “lead many people to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise if they didn’t struggle.”
The church community wouldn’t tell someone fighting cancer that their illness condemned them to hell, he reasoned, and neither should mental illness be considered a route to hell.
Do you agree?
Notable quote: “Those who say suicide automatically leads to hell obviously don’t understand the totality of mental health issues in today’s world, let alone understand the basic theology behind compassion and God’s all-consuming grace. We must do better at educating people on things they have a hard time wrapping their heads around. And mental health is definitely [a] topic Christians around the world must yearn to better understand.” —from Wilson’s blog
What people said about him: “Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people. We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not. At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for His help and strength, each and every day.” —Paul Eaton, administrative pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship
“Just learning of Jarrid Wilson’s passing. I am gutted. He was so bold and transparent to speak about people of faith navigating challenges to our mental health. I pray he found the peace he wanted for all of us.” —Twitter user @CandiceBenbow
So is Wilson right? Is mental illness a condition so difficult to overcome that suicide could be an eventual outcome. And because of this, Jesus will understand and provide His grace and comfort.
Would the act of tacking your own life be seen as a challenge one was not able to overcome, and therefore it would be unfair to judge such a person?
However, why would a person struggling with mental illness be less accountable than a gay guy who struggles endlessly with passions and desires, or the alcoholic who could have a weak moment at anytime?
Is Jarrid’s death an apparent paradox that we must simply walk away and accept as part and parcel of life in this fallen world?
Or should he have sort more help, and realised the importance of living his life out of love for others?
You tell me