Pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren tells his congregation, "Today, we need your prayer for us."

Pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren tells his congregation, “Today, we need your prayer for us.”

Megachurch pastor and author Rick Warren’s son, Matthew (27), committed suicide on Friday night after struggling with mental health issues for decades. Warren sent the following email to his Saddleback Church congregation and staff:

To my dear Saddleback Family,

Over the past 33 years we’ve been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us. No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.

You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a beeline to that person to engage and encourage them.

But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.

Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said, “Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?” but he kept going for another decade.

Thank you for your love and prayers. We love you back.

Pastor Rick

The author of The Purpose Driven Life’s Facebook page has been flooded with condolences, and Christian leaders from across the spectrum have taken to Twitter to express their sadness and support:

Pastor Greg Laurie, who also knows the pain of losing a son, wrote a note of sympathy on his blog as well. “At times like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word. There is no manual, but there is Emmanuel. God is with us,” Laurie said. “I know the Lord will be there for all of the Warren family and Saddleback Church as they grieve together. Looking forward to that day when God will ‘Restore all things’.”

As the Warren family grieves the loss of their son, they are joined by the tens of millions who’ve been touched by the sermons, books, and ministry of the man they affectionately call “Pastor Rick.”

Image of Matthew Warren courtesy of Saddleback

Image of Matthew Warren courtesy of Saddleback Church

*UPDATE: According to NBC News and Supervising Deputy Dan Aikin of the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner’s Department, the cause of death appears to be suicide by gunshot. “The estimated time of death was 10 a.m. on Friday morning,” NBC reports. “The sheriff’s department was called to the home at about 5:15 p.m., Aikin told NBC. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.”*

48 Comments

  1. I knew Dot, Pastor Ricks mom,she helped me bury my Mom,in Carson City Nv.We send out prayers and thoughts to all of the family !!
    Joe and Nancy Forrest

  2. The Marlow Family

    Our dearest Lord in Heaven, please help to bring comfort to our Pastor and your children Rick, Kay, and their children in this heartsick time of sadness. We pray for Matthew, and the entire Warren family that you will lift them up in your continued steadfast love and care. We pray that you will envelop them and our church in your love, strength and guidance during this time of mourning as we continue to serve you. In Jesus name we pray ~ Amen

  3. Cindy Sossoman

    Rick and family: I know what you are going through as I lost my son age 27 due to suicide. He fell off of a roof at age 25 and developed full blown schizophrenia. My consolation through the following days, years and months was knowing that he loved the Lord with all of his heart and was a “born again” Christian. You will be able to smile again some day. Just let the Lord carry you through these horrible hours, days, months and years.

    Cindy and Jack Sossoman
    Topeka, Ks.

    • Thoral Walden Haskell

      So sorry. I lost a son the same way with the same method. The pain is shirr agony. I knew u due to Richard Foster & Renovare’, awa your book. Mental illness due to genes is also in my family & is so difficult for all to deal with. May u have God’s peace & comfort & protection thru-out your grief. 34 years later I still tear up when something triggers that old grief. It is almost the worst thing one can possibly endure. u will need special people to help u as time goes by. God told me in prayer, audibly, when I told Him I hurt: I have 3 four-letter words for you. TIME, it takes time to recuperate. You have to live through it. The 2nd is Love. As you love others the pain eases. The 3rd is Prayer. Use the 5 steps of prayer-comtemplative prayer. Relax, same time each day, same place, pray, & journal it out. Believe it all really helps. I worked it because I had no other recourse to get rid of the agony. He also told another time thru a dream that I needed to praise Him in my pain. I am just a stranger to you, but I hope you take heed of what God gave to me.

  4. So so sorry to hear this news.. my heart love and prayers go out to you and your family.. i am confident that he is with our father and being loved extravagantly

  5. My heart is breaking right now for you and your family. While at the same time I find comfort and relief in the fact that he is eternally at peace, something he always yearned for. I’m taking on the challenge of walking 18 miles overnight this year from June 1-2 to raise awareness for suicide prevention. The event will take place in DC and is an effort of the American Foundation Suicide Prevention. I want to make a difference in this world & help the hurting

  6. Pastor Rick and Kay, We’re so sorry for you loss! We know ‘by faith’ you will be comforted by the loving arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! ‘By faith’ you will depend upon His power and strength to carry you through your grief! We love you and the work you do to equip the saints and are praying for you and your church family.

  7. Pastor Rick and Kay,

    My heart cries with you as news spread of your son, Matthew’s death. My heartfelt prayers to you and your family and your church family. May God’s tender mercies enfold you and hold you tight during this dark and difficult time.

    I pray the words of St. Paul may bring you comfort and hopefully ease your grief: “Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

  8. The Lord Jesus showed us what happens when one part of the world: A person sleeps the sleep of death. To our mind, death is but a rest. It is a transitional time for us, it seems to take forever, but in the spiritual world is not so. Our life before God is only a breath or a simple steam that rises and then dissipates into the air:

  9. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there any more sorrow, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. He added, Write: for these words are trustworthy and true. He told me, It is done: I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The one who is thirsty I will give to drink from the fountain of the water of life. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. – Revelation 21: 4-7

    http://deusquerfalarcontigo.blogspot.com.br/2011/04/mensagem-para-quem-perdeu-um-filho-ou.html

  10. Elizabeth Stitt

    Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted

    May the words of those dear and close to you and those of strangers and afar help bring comfort and solace to you and all that are mourning your son’s absence from our earthly frame of existence.

  11. Debbie Golden-Alvarez

    Oh,so burdened to hear about your lose. Depression can over take a person,but apparently it got the best over him. Only God truly knows the pain in which you are bearing at this time. Only words can express a heart so heavy with the news heard. I can only tell you to rely on God to get through this terrible time. May God comfort you & give you almighty peace. We all around the world will pray for God’s guiding hand to lead,comfort your heart & souls through this horrible tragedy.

  12. I sympathize with you I really do. I am a Christian and a respected leader in my local church. I have had a successful life and am happily married. Yet I have been plagued my whole entire life with depression and suicidal thoughts.. I have been in and out of hospitals, on and off meds, Failed suicide attempts and so on. I have been counselled and treated by secular and Christian doctors alike. I have been prayed on by great leaders for deliverance. I could go on and on…but the fact still remains I cannot get rid of this in my life. It is a daily struggle to keep the ship afloat. Some days are good while others are bad. What keeps me alive is the fear of going to hell by taking my own life. It is a total mystery to how things will end to those who take their lives. I wish Mr. Warren and his family my sincerest condolences and hope and pray that God will overlook this tragic event in their son’s life and see all the good that was in him despite this fatality.

    • God Really really Loves you, wen the days get tough look to him for the inspiration you need. You can always find a friend to share with through the struggles someone you can easily open up to. Much Love, Friend.

  13. I feel for you all at this very sad time, having understood that very pain myself. May God wrap you in His loving arms at this time and bring you peace & comfort. God bless xxx

  14. I suffered through a two-year bout with clinical depression and came close to losing my life; I cannot imagine battling a lifetime with that disease. The deep pain of depression cannot be adequately expressed. May you be comforted in knowing that we have the promise that ‘while pain may endure for the night -joy comes in the morning.’ Praying God’s comfort and strength to all of you in this time of sorrow.

  15. The Montecinos family

    We have been at Saddleback for over 12 years this is our family and we are yours. We love you and are praying for you. We have spread the word for everyone in all other churches and families to pray for comfort for the Warren family. We are so sorry for your lose. God is good even if we don’t understand what is going on and why…

  16. We are sorry indeed for your grief; we are praying for you Brother Rick and Sister Kay, the family, Saddleback Church and the church at large. We pray for Heavenly peace to fill your hearts; peace that only our Lord can and will give.

  17. God understands and grieves when any of his people are sick. Suicide is the result of a person being fatally ill from a mental illness and if that person has made a commitment to Him as our son had, he will receive them as His own. Our son died at age twenty from deep depression that did not respond to treatment. May our Lord comfort the family.

  18. Michael Buckton

    Just a normal mom and dad who are going through the worst event a parent can face Need so much understanding support prayer and love
    May God meet with you all in a very special way unique to your need over this painful season

  19. Face to face with Christ, my Savior,
    Face to face—what will it be?
    When with rapture I behold Him,
    Jesus Christ who died for me.
    Face to face I shall behold Him,
    Far beyond the starry sky;
    Face to face in all His glory,
      I shall see Him by and by!
    Only faintly now, I see Him,
    With the darkling veil between,
    But a blessed day is coming,
    When His glory shall be seen.
    What rejoicing in His presence,
    When are banished grief and pain;
    When the crooked ways are straightened,
    And the dark things shall be plain.
    Face to face! O blissful moment!
    Face to face—to see and know;
    Face to face with my Redeemer,
    Jesus Christ who loves me so.

  20. Why the 7-hour delay between Matthew’s death and the call to the sheriff? I am only too aware of the trauma in such circumstances. I’ve been through several similar instances. But 7 hours?

    • I don’t believe he lived with them. He went home, Rick said. I don’t speak with my family every hour of every day. An entire day can go by especially if everything seems OK. Let’s let them grieve without needless wonderings.

  21. Krishnanunny

    Our family offer our condolences and prayers for Paster Rick and his wife to emerge through this extremely difficult time in their lives. May our Lord give them the strength and comfort to recover and continue ministering to the needy. God bless.

  22. Brenda S Rogers

    Loss is a pool so many have had to encounter. My thoughts and prayers are with you that the grace of God will carry you through times ahead of pain. And His Spirit will fill you with righteousness peace and joy which are our promise.

  23. Pastor Rick and Kay, I know only too well the overwhelming grief of losing a child to suicide. I lost my son at a very early age. But the God of all Comfort gave me a song and a vision, Wayne Watson’s “Born in Zion”. The vision was at the moment of death Jesus himself came for my troubled son, turned to Satan, and said “This one was born in Zion, make no mistake, this one is mine.” “Nothing can seperate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Rom 8

  24. Dear friend in the faith and compassion of Jesus Christ. Do not look to this act any discouragement and condemnation of not being able to know how or issued during the life of this life, but let you know that Jesus led him to his death as the sufferings of humanity, so that death n ‘have no power over us. For the love that Jesus has for us and we will keep Matthew away from mental suffering. I will supplies brother and sister in faith tied you to love what death did not affect and power over us. retissons our links in the knowledge of the truth of Jesus in us. Because Christ in us ressurection and glory.

  25. Tim ans Debbie Bennett

    Rick and Kay: your ministry and many books you have written have touched our lives in so many spiritually deep ways. Your lives are so God filled and such a beacon of light for these generations and we know for many future generations. We want you you know that our hearts are broken for you and we hold you up to the Lord for comfort. There is no doubt you will both take this dark time to make your beacon even brighter. Tim and Debbie Bennett (NorthPointe church, Fresno)

  26. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    One of the horrible things about the internet and social media is that it gives a vehicle (and cover) to some of the most chilling and naked, raw hatred imaginable.
    There are situations where only tears and compassion are called for–such as this one.
    That some take advantage of such a tragedy to deride and disparage truly puts a spotlight on the immense evil in some people’s hearts.
    Today is Mercy Sunday for Catholics around the world. May Christ’s Mercy be poured out on the Warren family and their late ill son. May Mary’s motherly love enfold Matthew Warren as it enfolded her Son when she helped take him down from the cross.

  27. We have been praying since yesterday when we heard the sad news. We teach Children’s Church and this morning we shared with our children that bad things happen to good people too. We told them, the best thing we could do for all of you was to lift you up in prayer. Matthew’s sad journey is over and he is now in the loving arms of our Savior with peace and joy forever more.

  28. Debbie (Forrest) Myers

    Rick and Kay –

    I am so sorry for your loss. As you can see I am a Forrest, my grandparents are Bedford and Mary Forrest, my dad is Olon Forrst, and my Aunt is Ila Brown. Your family has help my family in so many ways. I wish I could say or do something to help your family in this time of sadness. I knew your dad and mom as Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Dottie. Matthew is now with the Lord and his loving grandparents. I am praying for your family.

  29. Dear Rick and Kay, so sorry for the loss of your son. Words can not express that enough. Please feel the prayers in your familys behalf that we all are praying and sending in the direction of Heaven with you. May our God Confort you with his loving arms. In the name of Jesus our Savior and Lord.

  30. Bruce Gillette

    The Warren family have our prayers.
    Why was there a gun in a home of someone with mental illness?
    Last month I officiated at a funeral for another person with a long history of mental illness who killed herself with a gun.
    People of faith have to start saying no to guns.

  31. My sincerest condolences to Pastor Rick and his wife. I would truly hope that God the Father is looking at Matthew right now with a compassionate. Welcome home Son on his lips for Matthew. I pray for Gods peace to you and the Saddleback Family.

  32. Mr. Gillette, People with mental problems have just as much right to try to protect themselves as anyone else. The Warren family are suffering. This is no time to put the gun control issue in there faces. Have you no heart? Shame on you! My prayers are with the Warren Family. God be with you in your time of sorrow.

  33. The chill of such a sudden loss causes a lump in my throat and my eyes to tear up for you Rick and Kay. Having lost a son myself I know these words will not help much. I weep with you and rejoice with you knowing now Matt is with his savior and free from the mental problems he faced here on earth. Grace and peace of Jesus Christ abound unto you.

  1. [...] Warren, who planted Saddleback 33 years ago, has been a longtime friend and supporter of church planters and Exponential, speaking at Exponential conferences and leading standing-room-only morning Bible studies. Throughout the week of the conference, Warren is always a visible presence, taking time to talk to and hang out with church planters. Each day, through his Pastors.com website, he offers free resources to thousands of leaders around the world. [...]

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