A Letter to Rick Warren

Dear Mr. Rick Warren,

Although you don’t know me and I am just one of thousands of people who have reached out to you following the tragic loss of your son, please know that I count you as a brother in Christ.

You are my family, bound by the blood of Jesus, separated only by time, destined to spend eternity together worshipping the Most High.

And as my family, when you grieve, I grieve. My heart breaks and aches for the loss you experienced and the pain you must now endure. I look at my own children and hold them closer, knowing that they are not truly mine. They belong to the Lord.  And God, in His remarkable love and kindness, entrusts us with these gifts. We are honored to shepherd them, for His namesake.

I desire to encourage you too, in the love, dedication, commitment, and hope you seemed to have displayed towards Matthew. On never giving up on him, on never surrendering, on continuing to stand in the gap, on trusting the Lord with your dear son.

The road of mental illness is often a long, winding, dark, and treacherous one. Even as Christ shines His light, the road remains cloaked in shadows of the unknown.

And nothing, absolutely nothing you did or did not do, allowed this tragedy to take place. You are not responsible for his death. I pray that you are able to ignore and cast off the voices of so-called “Christians” who would have you believe that you failed as a father. Or that your faith or theology or book sales prevented you from fathering well, thus leading to this loss.

Those are lies. All of them.

Christianity and the pursuit of Christ is not a depression-free zone. Following Jesus is not the guarantee of an easy life, or a perfect life, or a tied-up-in-a-pretty-bow-life. More so, Jesus does not promise us that mental illness will vanish. He promises to be with us, as we walk through it, suffer alongside our loved ones, and when tragedy strikes leaving us raw and wounded.

Despite what others would have you believe, I expect that you will stand face-to-face with Matthew in heaven, in the presence of our Lord Jesus–where they will be no more pain or sorrow.

I pray that those whose words attempted to undermine the power of a redeeming God would be convicted and silenced. I pray that what the enemy would attempt to use for evil, God will use for good. I pray that Christians see your loss as their own, another member of the body broken and bruised, and learn in this time what it is to come alongside our brethren–to weep with them and weep for them.

Finally, I pray that the unending, supernatural, and unfathomable peace of Jesus Christ will guard your heart and mind, and that of your family. I ask the Father to pour out His love, thick and all-consuming, like a balm to your spirit and a salve to your soul.

Know that so many of us are praying and will continue to do so, that Christ might be glorified, now and always…

with love and heartache,



29 thoughts on “A Letter to Rick Warren”

  1. My brother committed suicide over three years ago, and many questioned whether or not he could be in heaven. I believe wholeheartedly that he is. He committed his life to Christ as a young teenager, but struggled through years of severe depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. After years of trying different methods, medications, etc, he decided that he was ready to be done with the fight. He knew where he was going, and he knew it would be a much better place. So, there he is, and there he is at peace. It has been hard for his family here on earth, but we rest knowing that he is finally at peace after years of torment. I always say… God’s grace is sufficient.

  2. Well-said, you are approved as my spokesperson! I cannot grasp how accusations and blame are supposed to help this situation; even if they were grounded in truth (which they are not), public tirades are neither appropriate nor effective venues to express them. I tend to believe that people inclined toward invective are doing so in order to appear wiser or better than others…I see no other reason to butt into someone else’s pain.

  3. Thank you so much for putting to words great compassion and wisdom to our Christian family. We lost our son a year ago. The realization that our children are not our own came hard. Thank you again for voicing these thoughts in such a perfect way.

  4. As always, Nicole, you knocked the ball right out of the park. Thank you for sharing your kind and caring letter to our hurting Brother with the rest of us. YOU are such a blessing!


  5. Yes, and yes and, again, yes. Nicole, you’ve said this with the grace, wisdom, vision, and Spirit of Jesus. Thank you for being a Christian who brings back the lost art of sensitivity and tact. This is one of your most well-written and articulated posts.

  6. I had two sisters once. Now I have but one. The other chose suicide, for reasons only known between her and my God.

    Here’s the thing, and this will sound insensitive, but just read and hear:
    Death belongs to Jesus. He beat it. He conquered it. He alone has the key to it in His hand, that He took from the enemy when He descended into the depths after His crucifixion.

    So when death comes, be it a family pet, a neighbor, a loved one, innocent children in Sandy Hook, CT, understand that Jesus holds death in His hand. The dead don’t need our prayers, nor do they need our respect. Those two things belong solely to the living who now understand loss on a real level. To the living we owe respect. To the dead we owe the truth.

    Mr. Warren, I empathize and sympathize with your loss. This is the time to mourn, indeed.

  7. “Christianity and the pursuit of Christ is not a depression-free zone. Following Jesus is not the guarantee of an easy life, or a perfect life, or a tied-up-in-a-pretty-bow-life. More so, Jesus does not promise us that mental illness will vanish. He promises to be with us, as we walk through it, suffer alongside our loved ones, and when tragedy strikes leaving us raw and wounded.”

    This is such an important truth that is denied by many Christians. It is so hard to face depression when other Christians make you feel like you shouldn’t be depressed if you have Jesus. Yet, I know His presence when I have walked the dark roads and know He loves me and holds me at those times. There are many examples of people who are depressed in the Bible and God ministering and tenderly loving those people at those times. Not judging!

  8. I genuinely do not think I have read a better, more heartfelt and genuine letter like this in my whole life. Very, very well said Nicole. It’s when I read words such as yours it reminds me of what a wonderful family in Christ’s name I am a part of. Thank you and God Bless you.

  9. It grieves me that anyone would voice judgment at such a deep and personal loss. Have we forgotten, Judgment is God’s alone. I don’t know Mr. Warren nor did I know his son. But I have known many wonderful people who’ve suffered from depression and family members who’ve lost loved ones to suicide. Pointing fingers right now just feels so cruel!!! Those doing it should take care for when those fingers are pointed back–as they will be. The Bible tells us this is so.

  10. Thank you for speaking for us, “the brothers and sisters” to our brother in Christ, Rick and family. Our heart breaks also, and I know God’s heart breaks for their sorrow also, even as He holds Matthew in joy. You make our family proud with your words.

  11. Thank you Nicole. I have been a member of Saddleback for over 20 years. Pastor Rick and his family mean the world to me. I am so heartbroken & now like so many, disgusted by the hatred that has ensued them… We are all praying for them & seeing things like this gives us all comfort.

  12. Thank you. Thank you. We have a teenage son that has struggled with depression for most of his life. When I read the news of the Warren’s loss, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Then as I began to see some of the comments, I was literally sick to my stomach.

    I haven’t gotten on any social media sites since I read it Sunday. Part of me wants to toss my computer in the trash, stop blogging, and write it all off when I see what our social media society has become on so many fronts. That anyone would make this about anything other than the horrific loss and devastation that it was – that their pain would be used as a platform for someone’s soapbox or political agenda is almost more than I can bear.

    Thank you for speaking grace, peace and hope into an unspeakably horrible time for their family.

  13. Amen, Nicole. I am so encouraged by how many brave and truthful voices like yours there are on the blogosphere. I have spent most of my Christian life feeling so alone, thinking that I am the only one who wants to think and love like this, even if most days I fall short. So thank you. Thank you for standing up and being brave and loving God the way you do. By God’s grace, your every post makes one more pinprick in the darkness, letting His light through just that much more.

  14. What A beautiful heart felt letter you wrote to Bro Rick Warren. I do not know him personally but ive read one of his books.” purpose driven life”, I felt so heart broken when I heard about his son and didn’t quit understand why, it was hurting me so badly but after reading this letter it makes good sense to me now. We are all family in Christ Jesus. again, Thank you! Summer

  15. This letter brings tears to my eyes. It is written with grace, humility, and grounded in truth. It must have come from the heart that can hear the whisper of The Lord. Thank You for writing this.

  16. What a beautifully written letter of hope and encouragement to a brother in Christ. I’m sure it will bring great comfort to the Warren family.

    I have lost both a mother and a brother to suicide. For most of my life I believed they were condemned for their acts because of what other Christians said about suicide as sin. It is only recently, as a result of three significant things:
    – writing a book where God whispered healing words of comfort to me as I wrote;
    – the suicide of an evangelist I admired who had bipolar disease; and
    – Warren’s son’s death and the outpouring of love and insights from the church community,
    that my whole thinking on this matter has changed and I feel hope I didn’t have before for those family members.

    I see the tide turning in the Christian community and, tragic as the death of Matthew is, I believe this event has marked a turning point in the thinking and actions of Christians toward the devastating illnesses that result in suicide.

  17. Beautifully written, well said and exactly how I feel. God bless you for writing something so touching and comforting to our pastor Rick and his family.
    La Vonne

  18. Outstanding and very compassionate. Thank You for writing and we are praying for our brother Rick and family!

  19. Beautifully put, All I would add is that whe people say the sorts of things you are referring to, it says far more about them than the person they are saying it to or about.

  20. Pastor Rick via Twitter and Facebook, gave us a glimpse into his own pain saying:

    “Grieving is hard.
    Grieving as public figures, harder.
    Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest…”

    I pray that the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will envelop Pastor Rick and his family. Oh God, arise and defend your Name in a time such as this !

  21. I felt myself grieve alongside Rick Warren’s family, because I’ve lost my brother and a dear friend to mental illness, and almost lost another very close family member. I’ve been heartbroken by some of the words offered, and have tried through my writing to stop some of the stigma. Thank you for your words that lend support to not just their family, but others of us also.

  22. Hey Nicole…I subsribed after reading a facebook like for Sex is Yours. I also like this letter to Rick. I had been unaware of his son’s death or the churches response…dreadful…thanks for calling it out.

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