Written by Elizabeth Johnston (The Activist Mommy)
This week, I read that Jarrid Wilson, Christian megachurch associate pastor and mental health advocate, committed suicide the day before National Suicide Prevention Day. My heart broke and I gasped in confusion as I read this on Instagram. My deepest prayers for comfort and strength are extended to his beautiful wife and children, his friends and family, and to every person he sought to rescue from the clutches of depression, anxiety and mental illness through his organization “Anthem Of Hope”. I am confident Jarrid suffered greatly and fought hard for a very long time to stay alive and help others, and I have the utmost respect for those who are faced with that grueling struggle every day. My own life has not gone untouched by dark days, trauma, and family and friends who have committed the unthinkable act or attempted to do so.
But as I read further about this tragic situation, my broken heart quickly turned to shock when I read his Senior Pastor’s remarks about his young minister’s death. Greg Laurie, senior pastor of the 8th largest church in America, Harvest Christian Fellowship, posted these words on Instagram:
“One dark moment in a Christian’s life cannot undo what Christ did for us on the cross. Romans reminds us that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:39). At times like this, we must remember that as Christians, we do not live on explanations but on promises. We fall back on what we do know, not on what we don’t know. We do know that Jarrid put his faith in Jesus Christ and we also know that he is in Heaven now.”
He is in heaven now.
Jarrid’s wife uttered the same sentiments. She is a traumatized and grieving wife and I have absolutely no criticism of her. But Pastor Greg Laurie, who personally watches over the souls of 15,000 people and has a worldwide ministry? We need to talk.
I am acutely aware of the controversy this open letter will cause, but all I can think about is those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide right now, and I cannot remain silent out of compassion for them and their families. Furthermore, I have noticed the increasing trend toward ministers saying suicide will not place your eternal soul at risk, so I must speak up.
Can we just slow down for a minute and have a very important, life and death conversation about suicide and the conditions one must meet to enter heaven for all eternity? Are there conditions? Does everyone go to Heaven who wants to go there, regardless of their actions? Or are there conditions one must meet to inherit the greatest promise ever given to man, namely, eternity with our Savior in a place of unending righteousness, peace, provision, and joy?
Doesn’t scripture say that “no murderer will enter the kingdom of God”? Isn’t suicide murder of one’s self? Doesn’t the Bible say that “murderers will have their part in the lake of fire”? Isn’t the last act of a person committing suicide, self-murder?
Please know that it horrifies me to have to write this! I’m horrified that grieving people who know Jarrid or Greg would be offended by this discussion. But what about God’s Word? What about those who are planning right now to ingest that bottle of pills and end it all?
As I scroll down the social media posts of the “who’s who” in Christian ministry with verified check marks by their social media handles, why does it appear that so many are assuming a man whose last act was murdering himself, is now a redeemed child of God in the arms of Jesus?
My husband has been a family practice physician for twenty years. He tells the story of an elderly man who became a widower when his wife committed suicide. This poor man grieved deeply and blamed himself, wondering if there was something he could have done to save his wife’s life. Soon after his wife’s funeral, his daughter was going through a hard time, and she also committed suicide. Soon after that, his granddaughter was suffering through the emotional turbulence that would be expected from a teenage girl whose mother and grandmother committed suicide. So you know what she did? Yep. She killed herself too. The elderly gentleman would just cry and cry in my husband’s office as he told the story. “I hope they’re in heaven,” he would say, “but I don’t dare tell my children and grandchildren that, because I don’t want any more of them following their bad example.”
Tragic! Suicide can be so very contagious. This is why we must never excuse it or sugarcoat it. This is why we must not twist Scripture to make murderers heaven bound.
Is it possible that Jarrid Wilson found a place of repentance moments before he breathed his last breath? Absolutely! Is it possible that Jarrid, after having gone too far in the suicide process and unable to rescue himself, cried out to God in repentance for his sin? Yes, it is possible and I pray that happened.
I could understand if Pastor Greg Laurie said, “We hope Jarrid is with the Lord.” Or I could understand if Pastor Laurie just focused on comforting the family and friends left behind, without focusing on the eternal fate of Jarrid. But Pastor Laurie said “we also KNOW that he is in heaven now.”
“Know”? How can he say that with confidence?
Is anyone thinking about Jarrid’s son, Finch, who every September 30th might ask his Mom, “What did I do wrong to make Daddy want to leave?” What about his other son, Denham, who after his first breakup with his girlfriend as a young teenager might think that he, too, should follow Daddy’s example and just kill himself and go to heaven? No more suffering, right? Is anyone thinking about Jarrid’s wife as she endures the unfathomable grief of a thousand tearful nights, wondering if she, too, should follow her husband’s example and go to heaven prematurely?
To tell a watching world, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that killing yourself will get you a ticket to heaven (as long as you had faith), is not only unbiblical, but dangerous and reckless. If my children were sitting in a church or funeral service, where such a reckless proclamation was made about someone who killed themselves, I would have to escort my children out of the room and pray that no permanent harm be done to them with this toxic thinking. We have yet to see the tragic results of mishandling this crisis. What are we thinking? I pray to God that no one else loses a loved one because of the countless number of people who admire Pastor Jarrid and Pastor Greg.
So with all the love and humility I can possibly transmit, and in the absence of a face-to-face conversation with Pastor Laurie, I am pleading with Pastor Greg Laurie (and all ministers who have made similarly misspoken), to correct this reckless statement concerning suicide and uphold the truths of God’s Word, that suicide is never an option for a Christian believer. Lives hang in the balance.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
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