Rick Warren & son MatthewDan Wooding (Apr 1, 2014)

The megachurch pastor, and his wife, Kay, share memories of their youngest son, Matthew, who at the age of 27, committed suicide a year ago.

(Lake Forest, CA)—It was almost a year ago when Rick and Kay Warren received the unimaginable news that Matthew Warren, 27, the youngest of their three children, had killed himself with a self-inflicted shotgun wound at his Mission Viejo, California, residence. (Photo via ANS)

Matthew had bought the gun illegally over the Internet and used it to shoot himself and yet, rather amazingly, the pastor, was able to forgive the person who sold Matthew the gun.

“Someone on the Internet sold Matthew an unregistered gun,” Pastor Rick, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California, tweeted to his nearly one million followers shortly after he received the terrible news. “I pray he seeks God’s forgiveness. I forgive him.”

Warren then linked to Matthew 6:15, which says, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”—NIV

Now, the couple felt able to share their innermost thoughts about their late son, during an extraordinarily moving interview today (Friday, March 28, 2014), at a special event at Saddleback that was spurred by the suicide of Matthew.

Called “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church,” the couple were joined by a host of mental health experts and clergy, which included the Most Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County (NAMI-OC), who all joined together to host this special (and packed) gathering.

I began by asking Rick to describe his son, and he replied, “Matthew had a tender heart and a tortured mind. He was a brilliant kid.”

The author of the best-selling book, “The Purpose Driven Church, went on to say, “When he started seventh grade, they said—he lasted about two weeks—’Matthew’s not going to last Junior High because you have to change teachers every period, rather than having the same teacher.’ But they said that we could take him out of school for two years and ‘he’d still be smarter than any kid here.'”

Warren added, “He was probably the most courageous man I’ve ever met because, at seventeen, he came to me in tears and said, ‘Dad, it’s obvious that I’m not going to get well. We’ve gone to all the best doctors, we’ve had the best therapy, we’ve had the best prayers, and so why can’t I just go to Heaven? I know I’m saved. I know I’m going to Heaven, but why can’t I go to Heaven right now?’ And I told him, ‘Matthew, you may want to give up, but, as your father, I must always have hope and believe that there is an answer out there. So you might give up, but I cannot give up.

“He made it for ten more years and was very courageous. And if he were able to talk to me today from Heaven—which he can’t—I know he would say, ‘Dad you were wrong.’ And I would say, ‘What do you mean?’ and then he’d say, ‘It’s so much better than you explained it. I can’t wait for you to get here.'” (Photo via ANS)

Pastor Warren went on to say, “Trying to understand Heaven is like an ant trying to understand the Internet. They don’t have the brain capacity. So if I didn’t have the hope of Heaven, I’d be in ultimate despair, but because Matthew knew the Lord, and put his hand in the Lord’s hand many years ago, and walked with Christ for many years, I have this hope. He just had a tortured mind.”

I then asked him if he thought he would ever get over losing his son in this way, and he said firmly, “No, you never get over it—you just get through it. In fact, I did a whole six week series here at Saddleback on ‘how to get through, what you never get over.'”

Standing close by was Kay Warren, and so I turned to her (and) asked her to share something about Matthew that maybe people didn’t know about him.

With a faint smile, she replied, “He was so compassionate,” and then Rick cut in and said, “He was also witty.”

Kay then continued, “Witty, funny, but deeply compassionate. He was a compassionate warrior. He tried to help people even though he, himself, was so depressed. He would be on chat rooms and he would respond back to others with problems. He would try to get me to help people and say, ‘Would you financially help this person?'”

She told me that Matthew also “had a wonderful demeanor” and added that he’d always stop on the side of the road if there were people in need to try and help them.

“He just had a heart for other people who were hurting and fought really hard for others who were struggling,” said Kay. “He’d come out of a hospitalization, and have a list of people that he wanted to be praying for. So he was extremely compassionate for those who were suffering in the same way that he was.”

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