Hours before he would take his own life on the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day Monday night, Pastor Jarrid Wilson, 30, asked for prayers as he got ready to officiate the funeral of a Christian woman who had earlier taken her own.
“Officiating a funeral for a Jesus-loving woman who took her own life today. Your prayers are greatly appreciated for the family,” he tweeted at 2:01 p.m.
About 15 minutes later, Saddleback Church co-founder, Kay Warren, thanked him for being willing to be the “arms of Jesus” for the family of the suicide victim.
“Praying, Jarrid. Her devastated family needs so much tenderness and compassion right now. Grateful for your willingness to be the arms of Jesus to them,” Warren tweeted at 2:16 p.m.
“Thank you, Kay!” Wilson replied just under two hours later to his fellow suicide prevention advocate.
On April 5, 2013, Warren’s son, Matthew, fatally shot himself at the age of 27 after a long and private struggle with mental illness. It made her a vocal suicide prevention and mental health awareness advocate with messages geared toward people of faith.
Wilson, who was an associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, was relentless in his advocacy through an organization called Anthem of Hope that he founded with his wife, Juli, in 2016. Their “faith-centered” effort sought to amplify hope for those like himself who are “battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide.”
“Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure depression. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure PTSD. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure anxiety. But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that,” Wilson tweeted at 5:01 p.m. on Monday.
In a blog post just over a year ago, Wilson highlighted his lifelong struggle with his own mental health while pushing back against the idea that suicide damns people to Hell.
“As terrible as it sounds, mental health issues can lead many people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do if they didn’t struggle," he wrote. "If you don’t believe me, I’d encourage you to get to know someone with PTSD, Alzheimer’s, or OCD so that you can better understand where I’m coming from. As someone who’s struggled with severe depression throughout most of my life, and contemplated suicide on multiple occasions, I can assure you that what I’m saying is true."
“The reality is, you wouldn’t dare say that someone who died of cancer is going to Hell just because of their illness would you? I hope not. Then please don’t assume someone who died of suicide via severe depression is going to Hell either. Both are illnesses. Both can lead to death,” he said.
By 11:45 p.m. on Monday night, Wilson was dead, according to an Instagram post from his wife just after midnight on Wednesday.
“Can’t sleep, so I’m watching this video over and over again,” she said referring to a video she took of her husband at one of their sons’ baseball practice on Monday evening.
“I took this on Monday evening around 7:30 pm at our son’s baseball practice. By 11:45 that night, my sweet husband was in the presence of Jesus. I love you, jarrid. I miss you beyond what my heart can stand. Thank you for loving our boys and I with the greatest passion and selflessness I’ve ever seen or felt in my entire life,” she wrote.
“I’d do anything for a hug from you right now. I keep hearing on repeat what you told me all day every single day, ‘gosh I frieking (how he always spelled it) love you.’ Longing to be with you, longing to make you proud. The boys and I miss you so much. I frieking love you too. So much more than you could ever know. Wish I could tell you that right now. We all do,” she added.
Wilson’s suicide comes after other pastors who battled mental illness and depression also died by suicide.
A year ago, 30-year-old Pastor Andrew Stoecklein at Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, also took his life after battling depression and anxiety.
Another California pastor, Jim Howard, who led the Valencia campus of the more than 6,000 member Real Life Church, also fatally shot himself in the head after a protracted battle with mental illness earlier this year.
Adam Weber, Pastor of Embrace Church in South Dakota, said he was devastated by Wilson’s suicide because he had reached out to him on Monday night and he prayed with him.
“I am devastated. This morning I received the horrible news that my dear brother & fellow pastor Jarrid Wilson went to be with Jesus last night. He reached out to me late last night and I prayed for him. I’m without words... Please be praying for his wife Juli & his 2 boys,” Weber revealed on Twitter.
A GoFundMe campaign established to help Wilson’s young family on Tuesday had raised more than $30,000 in less than 24 hours as of Wednesday morning.
Earlier this year, CP reported on studies showing how ill-equipped many churches continue to be in ministering to Christians who struggle with mental illness, forcing many to step away from the church after their conditions were spiritualized instead of them being offered help.
In a public message on Harvest Christian Fellowship's website, Pastor Greg Laurie said, "It is with the deepest sadness and shock that I have to report that Jarrid Wilson went to be with the Lord last night. At a time like this, there are just no words.
"Jarrid joined us as an associate pastor at Harvest 18 months ago and had spoken out many times on this very issue of mental health. Jarrid and his wife, Juli, founded an outreach to help people dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts called 'Anthem of Hope.'
"Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people. We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not," he continued. "At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for His help and strength, each and every day."
Laurie stressed that no believer is ever separated from God, saying, "Romans reminds us that 'nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus' (Romans 8:39)," before sharing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).