Devastated by the suicide of fellow pastor and friend Jarrid Wilson, Sioux Falls Pastor Adam Weber wants to make it clear: "Admitting you're struggling with mental health doesn’t make you a bad Christian."
Weber wanted to echo the words of Wilson, who was devoted to equipping the church in helping those struggling with depression, anxiety and suicide. Wilson, who was open about his struggles with depression, died by suicide on Monday.
In a podcast Wednesday, Weber, who leads Embrace Church, wanted to assure others and especially pastors that it’s OK to admit they’re struggling mentally.
“I just want to say it’s OK to not be OK,” he said. “Hey pastors, it’s OK for you to not be OK. You go through a lot of crap … There’s just some weird dynamics of being a pastor and a lot of time it feels impossible to raise your hand and say ‘I’m not OK, I’m struggling, there’s things in my private life that are not pleasing, I’m having these thoughts that I know are wrong, I’m thinking about killing myself.’
“As a brother in Christ, as a fellow pastor, I want to tell you it’s OK to not be OK, it’s OK to ask for help.”
And it’s OK to seek help outside the church, he added.
Meeting with a pastor is encouraged but Weber stressed the need for getting professional help such as a counselor or medical doctor.
“Go get help,” the megachurch pastor stated. “That doesn’t make you a bad Christian. That’s not removing Jesus from your life. No. It’s giving you the ability to clearly see Jesus. If your body physically is all out of whack, it’s impossible to really follow Him. So get help.”
It was several years ago when Weber first met Wilson — whom he described as “this cool looking cat” — at a popular church conference called Catalyst. They were the only two left in the room after a breakout session. Wilson broke the ice to say, “Hey man, how are you doing?”
When Weber answered “not the greatest,” the Sioux Falls pastor didn’t expect Wilson to stay and listen to his story. But he did.
That’s when Weber began to share about his struggles and his feelings of burnout as he had been leading a church that was growing “like crazy” and he couldn’t keep up.
They continued to connect the following years.
“He’s a guy that in my lowest moments in life, I felt like I could reach out, someone you didn’t have to clean anything up, no need to impress him; he was just the guy that would meet you right were you are and he would share right where he is — good, bad and otherwise,” Weber said. Wilson was “quick to celebrate other people, quick to encourage other people, quick to ask hard questions.”
Even if they went a couple of months without making any contact, Wilson would send a text, saying, “Hey man, just wanted to say I love you man” or “love you so much, bro.”
“That’s Jarrid. Just a heart for people. Goofball but awesome,” Weber described.
So when he heard on Tuesday morning that Wilson — who was serving as associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in California — had taken his own life, Weber had a hard time believing it.
He tried texting and calling Wilson.
“I was completely in shock,” Weber said.
The day before, he had missed a call from Wilson as he was in a meeting and was at work the entire day.
Later that night, Weber texted him after seeing the missed call, to which Wilson replied: “It’s probably good you didn’t answer. Broke down in tears and called you. hah.”
After asking him a few questions, Weber sent a prayer specifically for the California pastor.
For the past three weeks, the two pastors had been “talking about a lot of different things.”
“I know he was going through some things, just trying to figure out what his purpose was, where he’s supposed to be in life. But I genuinely, even looking back at the text, never saw it coming. I was totally blindsided,” Weber said.
He feels some regrets.
“I wish I would have pressed you harder & asked more questions. You knew all the right things to do around depression, yet I wish I would have told you you couldn’t handle it. More than anything, I wish I would have called you more,” Weber tweeted Tuesday.
This is not the first time Weber has encountered suicide in his ministry.
As a 24-year-old pastor, his first funeral involved a young dad who took his life just hours after he had met with him.
“I was destroyed,” Weber remembers feeling. “It just wrecked me. I had to analyze every part of our conversation. Did I miss something? How did I not see that he was going to kill himself even though he didn’t mention anything?”
He thought about quitting ministry.
Earlier this year, he did a sermon series addressing mental health and depression and three-fourths of the way through it, one lady at his church killed herself.
Weber felt “annihilated by that, it just impacts you, ... it makes you pause.”
But Weber wants those who have lost loved ones to suicide to know: “It is not your fault.”
“It’s not on you. Last night, I was struggling big time and I needed to hear that myself. Adam, it’s not your fault. Moms who have lost kids, kids who have lost parents, people who have lost friends, it’s not your fault.”
The burden to save a person’s life can be crushing. But what one can do if a loved one is struggling mentally is “be present,” Weber said.
“You’re not Jesus, you can’t replace Him. It’s not on you to carry this burden, but you can be there, you can be present. It’s not you to save them, it’s not you to keep them alive … but you can be the one person that they can reach out to.”
And don’t be afraid to ask hard questions, he added.
He wished he would have asked Wilson if he was thinking about killing himself. Though awkward, those questions must be asked if a loved one is struggling.
Following the death of the 30-year-old father of two, Weber wants to carry the message that Wilson cared about so much.
“Your life matters,” Weber emphasized, borrowing Wilson’s Anthem of Hope hashtag.