Last weekend, Rick Warren preached his first sermon after his son’s suicide four months ago. His message was the first in a series, “How To Get Through What You’re Going Through.” He said he had the perfect role model for his struggles: “God knows what it’s like to lose a son.” His message was clear: “Not for one second did God forsake my son. Not for one moment has God forsaken me.”
Matthew Warren was 27 years old when he died on April 5. Pastor Warren said of him, “He battled mental illness his entire life. For 27 years, I prayed every day of my life for God to heal my son’s mental illness. It just didn’t make sense why this prayer was not being answered. But I would rather walk with God and have my questions unanswered than have all my questions answered and not walk with God.” And he made this statement to those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses: “Your illness is not your identity. Your chemistry is not your character.”
Another shocking death has also made headlines in recent days. David “Kidd” Kraddick was a national radio celebrity, heard on 75 stations around the country. He died Saturday at a golf tournament in New Orleans for Kidd’s Kids, a nonprofit he started. Kraddick was 53 years old. Yesterday morning, his radio show was dedicated to remembering his life and legacy. Ryan Seacrest, Kelly Clarkson, and other national celebrities have tweeted their sorrow at his passing.
My wife’s father died two weeks ago today. His death brought back vivid memories of my father’s passing at the age of 55, and of my mother’s death nearly five years ago. What help does Christianity offer in the hardest, harshest places of life?
First, those who make Christ their Lord never die. Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). When we close our eyes here, we open them there. When we take our last breath here, we take our first breath there. We never cease to be. We simply step from time into eternity, “from the land of the dying to the land of the living,” as one Puritan pastor put it.
Second, those who make Christ their Lord never “lose” fellow believers. We will meet them again in paradise (1 Thessalonians 4:17). For them it will be only a moment before we are reunited. They are home and well, and so shall we be.
Third, God walks with us through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). He grieves as we grieve (John 11:35), sustaining us through his word, worship, and people. And he redeems our loss by using us to help others who suffer.
In his sermon this past weekend, Rick Warren stated: “God wants to take your greatest sorrow and turn it into your life’s greatest message.” What is your “greatest sorrow”? How will you use it for God’s glory and our good today?