Sadness and Madness

Saturday shortly after noon, I filled up the dog bowl on the back porch with water and pitched dishes in the dishwasher so that I could head out with Melissa for a bite to eat and maybe a little shoe shopping. She’d spent the night with Keith and me in the country and we’d had a lazy Saturday morning over coffee and conversation. I’d set out my purse and keys and decided to wipe down the kitchen counter before we walked out the door. Just as I sprayed the cleaner and grabbed the dishtowel, Melissa walked in staring at the screen of her phone with the oddest expression.

“Mom, I don’t know if it’s true or not but I’m seeing references on Twitter to Rick and Kay Warren losing a son.”

She was ashen. My stomach flipped and, over the next few minutes as she read to me bits and pieces of breaking news, we feared the worst. I felt a hot sickness in my throat. My relationship with the Warrens is the same as most of yours. I have simply been served and led well by them. Although I had the joy of ministering to women on the Saddleback campus some years ago, my stay was brief and our schedules were wrapped entirely around the event. I have not had the opportunity to get to know the Warrens in the way that personal friends know one another but I always knew in my heart that I’d like them so much. We’re similar ages and in similar seasons with our families. Meanwhile, I have  loved them and esteemed them in Christ as faithful and mighty servants of the living Lord Jesus Christ. And quite possibly, among the mightiest to ever serve this generation.

Within an hour of Melissa walking into the kitchen with those first pieces of news, someone very close to the Warren family confirmed the tragedy on Twitter. We were heartsick and not for media personalities or even public servants. We were heartsick for a family of real people with breakable hearts. And we wept. Many of you undoubtedly did as well.

An odd mix of feelings overtook me with increasing force through the afternoon and into the early evening. The sadder I got, the madder I got. Mad at an astonishing satanic force that stoops viciously and swoops in unscrupulously to attack children and to prey on their weaknesses as they grow up, shooting so relentlessly at one spot that they can barely get to their feet between arrows. I’ve been that child and many of you have, too. Madder still that the devil in all likelihood delights in nothing more than targeting the children and dearest loved ones of true servants of God. Nothing tries our faith like the suffering of our children. At the end of the day, our faith is what the devil is after most. Without it, it’s impossible to please God. This is why Paul could say with relief nearly palpable on the page of his final letter, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

We’ll all finally make it to our finish lines but the cliffhanger along the way will be this: will we keep our faith? That isn’t the same thing as keeping our salvation. I don’t believe my salvation is something I can give back. I received it by grace through faith from Christ Himself and my works don’t secure it no matter how my woes obscure it. His grip never loosens. Nothing can snatch us out of our Father’s hand. What’s at risk is our active belief in who God says He is, what He says He is like, and what He says He can do.

Is He good? Is He faithful?

So the enemy sets out to knock the feet of our faith out from under our walk. And there is nothing more effective toward that end than targeting the ones we love most on this planet.

I don’t say that to scare you. I say it because I believe it is the hair-raising truth. No, we are not abandoned here as victims on this damaged sod. We are not abandoned at all. Our God is with us. The Spirit of His Son is in us. We are more than conquerors through the One who loves us. We are not at the mercy of Satan. We are at the glorious, life-breathing mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, a mercy that leads, as Jude 21 says, to eternal life and will ultimately spill like a river into a sea of reality where no sufferings of our past will compare with the glory of our present. In the meantime, greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world but make no mistake. This is a vicious world we’ve been left to serve. One God still loves or we would not still be here.

And then, in that mixture of emotions Saturday afternoon, I got madder and madder at the bullies in the Body of Christ. I thought how much it turns out that the Warrens have been through personally and, if they are like most leaders, all the while putting out fires and putting up with a bunch of trash-talk from people who would call the same Jesus Lord.

God help us. In the words of James, These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters.

I don’t believe one of us here in this community thinks that leaders should be immune to questions, constructive criticism, and accountability.  That’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about here. I’m talking about bullying. There are Scriptural means for going to a brother or sister to reason with them about matters we genuinely consider to be off base, misleading, or in error. You and I both know that much of what happens out there in public forums is the furthest thing from biblical.

It is slander.

I went on a walk through the woods Saturday late afternoon and did something I don’t often do. I cried angry tears. I got so mad that I could have hit somebody. I kept thinking how believers attack one another and sling stones at each other like the other can’t bruise or break. And all the while that person may be in so much personal pain that it’s nearly unbearable. I’m not transferring this to the Warrens. I do not know them personally. I’m telling you what I know to be true about most people out there. Most of us are in significant pain of some kind. That doesn’t mean defeat necessarily. It just means pain.

Life is hard enough without hatefulness rife in the Body of Christ. We are called to carry one another’s burdens, not pile relentlessly on top of them. We can still hold one another accountable. We can still ask questions. We can still disagree. But we can do it with respect.

I’m sick of the bullying. The mud-slinging and the meanness. I’m sick of careless, idle words thrown out there in the public square and professing believers in Christ standing on the necks of their own brothers and sisters to sound smart and superior. As if it’s not enough that we are surrounded in this culture by Christian haters, we’ve got to have our own hater-Christians. It’s insane.

When we turn people into caricatures, everything’s game. The moment we depersonalize them, our consciences harden and we can mock and slander at will and have a blast doing it. Snide blogs and tweets and Facebook posts about various leaders can also be effective ways to jump in their spotlight. Bullies aren’t just mean. They’re self-serving. They’re platform-hunting. They have to borrow one to perform.

No, I don’t think that saying all of this will change it much but some things still need to be said. Sometimes we need to speak up and call something wrong. There’s a bigger issue in the Body of Christ than immorality. It’s hatefulness. If the greatest priority Christ assigned to us was love, the gravest offender is hate.

Just about the time cynicism threatens to overwhelm us and turn us into the very people we can’t stand, genuine love – the real thing – erupts right here on this earth like concrete breaking open to a spring. Compassion and tremendous affection are pouring forth from the Body of Christ for the Warrens right now. It is right and it is lovely. We have been served well by them and have learned so much from them. To respond with expressions of love, comfort, and intercession is our honor and privilege. We must and we will.

But even now at the hardest moment of their lives the Warrens can teach something vital if we are willing to learn. Their heartbreak demonstrates what has always been true but has never been more profoundly overlooked: these who serve us publicly also suffer privately. They are not caricatures. They are not just personalities. They are people living on a painful planet with the rest of us.

The Warrens will come forth like gold. The enemy will not win. They will fight the good fight. They will finish the race. They will keep the faith.

I love the Body of Christ. I don’t want want to get cynical. I don’t want to sit around and hate the haters or I become one. But this morning I just want to say this. We can love each other better. Let’s do. People have enough hurt. Let’s be careful with one another.

 

 

 

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735 Responses to “Sadness and Madness”

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Comments:

  1. 651
    Eliabeth says:

    I am just reading this entry, not because I hadn’t heard the news, but because we have been wrapped in our own grief. That same day, hours earlier, I went to wake my boys for school, only to find our oldest, eight year old Xander, had been delivered by Jesus into his loving arms during the night.

    Such different circumstances, such similar pain. We, too, had no warning. We, too, know we will see our son again. While Xander’s was a very rare complication of a health issue, our pain is still similar. My heart broke for the Warrens, and in this, God allowed me a brief reprieve from. My own pain to cover them in prayer.

    I guess I don’t know why I am writing this now, other than since you ladies share your lives and ministries so fully, it is strange to me that you do not know this major life event in mine.

    Also, I wanted to thank you for the SSMT. Thought I have falling behind,the first verse I learned this year was Lamentations 3:19-24. I have said this over and over to myself in the past 6 weeks, and we even had it read at Xander’s memorial service.

    So many events like this have fallen into place to create an environment of not only mourning, but of true praise. Xander made the decision to give his life to The Lord and be baptized only 6 months ago, and in doing so, gave the last push needed for my uncle, for whom my mom has been praying for 40 years, to do the same. Events transpired so that we had an amazing week full of wonderful memories before he the lucky little dude beat us to heaven. People have been challenged.an urgency for the Gospel has been reignited. God has been given glory.

    I guess the last thing I want to say is thank you for your faithfulness in following the leading of the Lord. We are in the middle of the Daniel study, and the last homework I did was of the fiery furnace, and the ways in which we can be derived. While Xander was rewarded with option 3, we have been blessed to be covered by option 2.

    My days sand nights are tough, “But this I call to mind and therefor I had hope”!

    • 651.1
      Rachel says:

      I just wanted to say that I am so sorry for your loss. Nine months ago I delivered my beautiful, five-pound daughter who was stillborn and this was completely unexpected and has been so painful. Just to say you are not alone in the grief and loss of Xander.

  2. 652
    Cheryl says:

    How ironic that you should say that they will come forth as gold. Another family in a very public ministry, the Hamiltons, also known as Patch the Pirate, just had the same tragedy take place! I say ironic because one of the songs Ron Hamilton is most famous for “Rejoice in the Lord,” contains those very words. What a horrible trial these families are facing! We ought to be offering our comfort, not our judgement….remember Job!!!

  3. 653
    cindy says:

    I think facebook and email are the cowards way of communicating. We hide behind the computer. I am also going to disagree with Rick being THE mighty man of God. God anoints us all for different things. I think the faithful, hidden, unknown janitor of a church is a mighty man of God. I think the street evangelist that no one knows about is a mighty woman of God. I think intercessors who have ministries solely in their prayer closet are mighty. I think anyone who serves God is mighty. Just because you have a platform, an anointing, and a grace to be a full time minister that everyone knows doesn’t mean you are the mightiest man or woman of God. It means that is your function and gift. God doesn’t look down and compare us like that. He puts us in the body to do certain jobs. Beth, yours is seen and known. Mine is not. God doesn’t class you as better or mighty than me or anyone else. This is not hateful speech, this is me tired of full time ministers forgetting that it is grace that enables them to do what they do. Grace only. I’m sorry for Rick, but there are so many Christians out there who go through hell and get no support from anyone. Because they are not known, or a “big wig.” I’m so tired of that kind of Christianity. So sick of ministers being all when God is all. Christians in this country congregate around ministers and forget to love and serve each other.

  4. 654
    Charlotte says:

    The world is watching. The Warren’s son’s suicide will NOT be in vain. This is soul, heart, and gut wrenching. We as a Christian community must blanket this very public family with all the endless grace and peace God has to offer! The world is hurting, their son is in the warm & loving arms of Christ and the Warren’s will help others
    as they walk through this terrible ordeal. To God be the Glory!

    who suffer

  5. 655
    Lisa says:

    The exact reason I left the body of Christ. I was ridiculed to the point that my faith was destroyed

  6. 656
    Sadness says:

    Very well written. Thanks.

  7. 657
    Kellie says:

    As one who had same thing happen as Rick and Kay, I can so relate.. It is a pain no one understands unless they have been there.. To lose a child is a loss like no other.. Compound that the child chose this makes it 1000 times worse. Nothing I ever saw coming. And others do not realize this. I can tell you it has only been God who has gotten me to this point in my life. This shook my faith like no other.. But what the devil meant for bad, God has and will continue to make good. From one who knows, the best thing you can do when one goes through this is just stand by them through it all.. And it may be a long time coming. Don’t give up on them. Don’t tell them dont you think you need to get over this?? You NEVER get over this. You learn how to cope and move forward but still have days it hits you out of nowhere. Thank you for posting this Beth..

  8. 658
    Audrey Auernheimer says:

    Beth, All of us who are believers are deeply touched by the loss and grief of the Warren family. For myself, it is a shared grief. Three of four of my children were diagnosed with mental illness issues. As young adults, two of them have taken their lives. Our third child, and youngest son, is now in his twenties and at high risk for suicide as well. Although I will feel the pain and loss of my dear children forever, I am comforted by the fact that God never left their side on this earth. Satan may have won a small victory in allowing my children to take their lives, but in the end, my dear ones are with Christ and they are now healed. Christ wins in the end. Someday we will be reunited for a wonderful family reunion.
    For many years, my husband and I have educated ourselves and taught other family members about brain disorders called mental illness. We received training and support through the organization of National Alliance of Mental Illness. Although my pain and grief is never far away, We have been so blessed to have been able to use our pain to teach others about these dreadful, debilitating brain diseases. The family member classes we taught in the Midwest were compromised mostly of Christians. The community of believers are no better informed of the medical and psychological aspects of mental illnesses than are any other aspect of society. Bullying, hateful words, and other negative behaviors quite often stem from ignorance. Ignorance produces stigma against mental illness, and those victims who suffer from it. The statistics are that 4 out of 5 people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness.
    The greatest need within the Christian community today is to be educated about the biological aspects of mental illnesses, and the role genetics play within families. With education, as I’m sure you know, comes understanding. With understanding, compassion.
    God bless you in your ministry, Beth.

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