(Photo: AP Images / Luis M. Alvarez)
News of the death of Rick Warren's son, Matthew Warren, has generated a massive outpouring of sympathy and tributes from Christian leaders as well as thousands of others on social media sites Facebook and Twitter, with many offering their prayers for the Saddleback Church pastor and his family.
The 27-year-old son of Pastor Rick Warren is said to have taken his life after a lifelong battle with mental illness. The news of the tragic death was broken by an announcement from Lake Forest, California-based Saddleback Church early on Saturday morning.
The statement from Rick Warren read: "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."
News quickly spread across the nation and globe, and sparked an immediate outpouring of prayers from Pastor Warren's Christian colleagues.
Fellow pastor, Greg Laurie, posted to his Twitter account: "Join me in prayer for @RickWarren and @KayWarren1. Their son Matthew has gone to be with the Lord."
Laurie, whose own son, Christopher, was killed in a car accident nearly five years ago also posted on his blog: "I too have had a son die, so I have a sense of the pain Rick and Kay are facing. But their circumstances are different and my heart goes out to them. 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. 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.' (Acts 3:21)"
Pastor Mark Driscoll posted on Facebook: "Teared up hugging and praying over my 5 kids today while praying for my friend Pastor Rick Warren whose 27-year-old son died. Please pray for his family & their church family."
Fellow megachurch leader Bishop T. D. Jakes also added: "My heart is broken over the sad news of @RickWarren and @KayWarren1 losing their son today. Please keep them in prayer."
American evangelist Will Graham, the grandson of Rev. Billy Graham, made a call for prayer for Rick Warren and his family on his Facebook page: "Please join me in praying for Rick Warren and his family as they mourn the death of his son Matthew. I pray that they sense God's peace that passes all understanding as they go through this valley."
Mike Huckabee posted on Facebook: "Rick Warren's 27 year old son died last night. Rick has been a friend of mine since we were in seminary. God has used Rick to touch the world. Now we need to join together and ask the world to touch him with our prayers and love."
World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General, Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, posted a messaged onto his social media page saying: "My heart goes out to my dear friends Rick and Kay at the loss of their son. Please join me in prayer for the Warren family."
Bestselling Christian author Eric Metaxas posted on Twitter: "PLEASE pray for Pastor Rick Warren, who's 27-yr-old son took his own life yesterday. Depression is a very painful disease. Lord have mercy."
From Australia, popular Hillsong musician Darlene Zschech also left a message on her Twitter account stating: "Dearest @RickWarren and @KayWarren1 .. Our love and prayers r with you & family xx you are loved & upheld more than you'll ever know x M & D."
Hillsong founder and senior pastor, Bobbie Houston, also posted on Twitter: "Deepest love to @RickWarren & @KayWarren1 in the passing of their beloved son. Love from your @hillsong family!"
From London, Bishop John Francis of Ruach City Church tweeted: "@RickWarren I and @RuachCityChurch will be praying for you & your wife through this difficult time."
Prayers were also offered by hundreds on The Christian Post's Facebook page as news of the tragedy broke on Saturday afternoon.
Facebook user, Mirna Santamaria Barcenas posted: "Our prayers go out to the Warren Family!! May God bless comfort each one !!"
Debra Pike also posted on the CP Facebook page: "I pray that God will comfort the Warren family in their great time of loss and need. I've lost a brother, and an infant son so I do know what is is like. May the good Lord help you all through this and the days to come."
Saddleback Church congregant Stephanie Nava posted to CP: "Omgosh. I am so sad for him. He is my Pastor in ca and his church helped grow me up in my 1st few years walking with the Lord. I know the Warrens personally. They are an amazing couple and family. 'I know God is with you. You have been threw so much already with Kay's cancer. You are blessed to have each other and I know the Lord will continue to bless you. My prayers are with you. One day at a time...'"
Rick Warren's full message announcing the death of his son reads:
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 bee-line 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.