The wife of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein, who killed himself last month after a prolonged battle with depression and anxiety, has spoken out about some of the “common myths” surrounding the complex issue of suicide.
Stoecklein, the lead pastor at Inland Hills church in Chino, California, took his own life on August 25, shortly after returning from a sabbatical from his ministry position to receive treatment for his deteriorating mental health. His wife, Kayla, has penned several powerful and heartbreaking messages since his death, sharing them on the church blog, “God’s Got This.”
With so much confusion surrounding the area of mental illness and suicide, Kayla Stoecklein decided it was time to set some things straight, and decided she would dispel three key myths surrounding suicide that she believes are still being bounced around the Christian community.
View this post on Instagram
World Suicide Prevention Day has taken on a whole new meaning in my life and in my heart. • It took me all day to figure out what to say or share. I knew I wanted to say something, I couldn’t just let this day pass by. It means too much to me now. • So I wrote again, but this time it wasn’t a letter. I’m calling this entry, “3 myths about suicide you may have picked up along the way.” (Link in Bio) #godsgotthis
The first issue that Stoecklein tackles is the assertion that suicide is the “ultimate sin” and outweighs any other sinful action or behavior. Related to this is the common belief that suicide will always result in that person’s soul being condemned to hell. Kayla contests this bold assumption:
“This is a common misbelief about suicide and it breaks my heart,” she writes.
“I’ll be the first to admit prior to Andrew’s death I may have actually believed it to be true,” she notes. “I remember leaning over to my mother in law, Carol, in the hospital room as my husband lay there dying, whispering through my tears, ‘Will he go to heaven?’ She quickly reassured me, as I am confident now: whether you are accepted into heaven or not has nothing to do with how you die. The only way we are accepted into heaven is through a personal relationship with Jesus. I believe with 100% of my soul that Andrew is in heaven.”
View this post on Instagram
While Andrew’s dad was battling leukemia we clinged to the phrase “God’s Got This.” • It was Andrew’s idea to create a blog so that people could follow along the journey. Andrew was incredibly passionate about the phrase “God’s Got This.” • We have sent hundreds of thousands of wristbands all over the world with those precious words embedded on it. • Our family is still holding tight to that phrase even now. We are choosing to believe that “God’s Got This.” We don’t understand it, we hate it, it makes us angry, we can’t even breathe, but we are trusting God. • This morning I wrote a post to my husband, if he was here these are the words I would say to him. You can read the post on godsgotthis.org . • Andrew, we will keep “God’s Got This” alive in your name. #godsgotthis
As is the case with degenerative physical illnesses that inhibit your bodily functions, Kayla shares that her husband’s mental illness had caused him to “lose his ability to make wise decisions, to think clearly and to properly articulate his feelings.”
“He did not want to die,” she writes. “I can rest assured that he is no longer in pain, he is completely healed in heaven; a place more beautiful and wonderful than any human mind could ever comprehend.”
The second myth that Kayla highlights is the belief that anyone who commits suicide must be a “horrible human being.” Indeed, for those in their right mind, the idea of leaving behind a wife and three kids appears fundamentally cruel and unfair. But is this a misguided view to take?
“The Andrew we all knew and loved; the Andrew we saw on stage every Sunday; the Andrew who would hop on a skateboard and ride up and down the driveway with his boys: he would never do this!” Kayla explains, adding that her husband “was sick.”
“His mind was overtaken by mental illness, spiritual warfare, and a series of unfortunate circumstances that caused him to lose control of his own thoughts and actions,” she writes.
The final assertion that Stoecklein challenges is this: “When you have faith in God you do not have suicidal thoughts.”
This, she asserts, is simply not true. In fact, many of the most lauded leaders throughout Church history have suffered with the shrouding darkness of depression and suicidal ideation. One of the most well-known of these figures was Baptist minister Charles Spurgeon. In his lecture series, “The Minister’s Fainting Fits,” delivered to a group of students in London, Spurgeon eloquently explained that depression has to power to plague absolutely anyone:
“Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.”
Depression is one of the great levelers. It can strike regardless of gifting, age, gender, vocation or spiritual fervor, and Christians are certainly not exempt.
In her post, Kayla explains how her husband “ran to God in his depression.”
“He filled his alone time with worship music,” she shares. “He loved God and I believe that his faith really did help carry him through his darkest moments. However in most cases faith simply isn’t enough to heal depression.”
“Depression is a disorder of the brain that is both biological and physiological,” she notes. “We need to help break this stigma of mental illness. Although prayer and spirituality may help, and God can do miracles, ultimately mental illness deserves to be treated just like every other illness.”
“I believe God has not called us to judge mental illness or suicide, rather he has called us to love Him and love them, and he meant all of them! I hope the truth behind these three myths can help us to better: embrace, love, and comfort those who are facing the brokenness of depression and suicide and the survivors who were left behind.”