Leading Evangelical Pastor Sees Hope for Bernie and Ruth Madoff

Leading Evangelical Pastor Sees Hope for Bernie and Ruth Madoff

In an emotionally charged and deeply personal interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Ruth Madoff admitted that on Christmas Eve 2008, she and her husband, Bernie, tried to end it all.

“I said, ‘I just can’t go on anymore,’” Mrs. Madoff told CBS News. The Madoffs ingested a bunch of pills in their New York City penthouse, but awoke the next morning still alive, and relieved.

Although the Madoffs’ difficulties were largely of their own making (the suicide attempt occurred just weeks after Mr. Madoff admitted to a Ponzi scheme that cost investors an estimated $20 billion), does the Christian faith have any hope to offer in situations like these?

Pastor Don Wilkerson, co-founder and former pastor of Times Square Church in New York City and co-founder and current president of Teen Challenge, Brooklyn, believes it does.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Wilkerson said that hitting rock bottom can actually be an opportunity for faith.

“When a person gets down that low, that’s a time to cry out to God,” Wilkerson told CP. “God certainly sees people at their lowest depths. It’s really in despair that we learn to cry out.”

With over 50 years as a pastor, including working with men and women coming out of drug addiction and self-destructive compulsions, Wilkerson has had extensive experience counseling people with suicidal thoughts. He said Christians who encounter people with such tendencies should take the situation seriously.

“Suicide is really a cry for help– it’s the ultimate cry for help,” Wilkerson told CP. “No one should ever take it lightly.”

In fact, suicide has already stricken the Madoff family. The couple’s son, Mark, committed suicide last year, 14 months after an unsuccessful attempt to take his life by swallowing pills, according to a book by his widow, titled The End of Normal: A Wife's Anguish, A Widow's New Life.

But Wilkerson believes there is still hope for Mr. and Mrs. Madoff. He cited David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer, as an example of a criminal who came to faith in Christ – in prison. It’s possible that Mr. Madoff, serving a 150-year sentence, is already experiencing a change of heart.

On Thursday morning, Barbara Walters reported on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she had an interview with Mr. Madoff at the North Carolina prison where he is incarcerated. According to Walters, Mr. Madoff said, “I feel safer here (in prison) than outside … I lived the last 20 years of my life in fear. Now, I have no fear because I’m no longer in control.”

Wilkerson encourages Christians to minister to those who may be suicidal. He says believers can look for an “opportunity to offer prayer for them, say, ‘What can I do for you?’ I don’t know whether the Madoffs had anybody who could minister to them in that situation.”

And that’s exactly what Wilkerson hopes for Mrs. Madoff.

“I hope his wife finds somebody she can talk to,” Wilkerson told CP. “To me, she appears to be a victim.”


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