The wife and mother of California Pastor, Andrew Stoecklein, have delivered his final sermon message three months after he took his own life. Pastor Stoecklein had been battling severe mental illness in the months leading up to his death, but had returned to work to deliver two messages in his “Hot Mess” series. He was just a couple days away from preaching the third and final message when he died.
In a heartfelt intro to the final message, entitled “Moving Toward the Mess,” Carol talked about the rapid decline in Andrew’s mental health in the months preceding his death and commended him for being willing to help others by openly sharing his story of suffering.
“It was new to him, it was new to our family,” Carol said of Andrew’s sudden onset of panic attacks, anxiety and depression. “We were so unfamiliar with living with mental illness.”
“But he was getting help,” she continued. “We thought he was getting better, his doctors thought he was getting better, and he himself thought he was getting better.”
“None of us, including Andrew, really knew what was happening in his mind,” Carol explained. “None of us really understood how broken his mind was. His mind got sick. He was sick. It was an illness.”
Stoecklein also noted the significance of the spiritual realm in Andrew’s fight. “None of us fully understood the spiritual attack that he was under,” she said. “It was both, to the extreme, at the same time.”
On the day of his suicide, Carol revealed, the torment in Andrew’s mind “was sheer torture.”
In the wake of Andrew’s death, Carol said that the family has been left with “a thousand unanswerable questions,” but commended her brave son for revealing his mental health struggles to the Church and using his own experience as inspiration to release and heal others going through similar turmoil.
“He was willing to be open and vulnerable about his struggle with mental illness,” she said. “That is really unusual for a pastor in the public eye. He was just putting it out there, willing to do a whole message on the uncomfortable topic.”
She added: “God wanted to use his struggle with mental illness to help other people for God’s purposes.”
Carol highlighted some staggering statistics on mental illness and suicide as a way of introduction to her son’s final sermon. “One in five adults struggle with mental illness,” she noted. “It is a real thing. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.”
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You know those sacred moments in life? Those things that just feel bigger than you? Those moments where it is as if heaven comes close enough to touch? For me, Sunday was one of those moments. Sunday was sacred. . The lead up, the delivery, and the aftermath, all incredibly weighty, heavy, and intense. The word closure doesn’t feel right, but it was almost as if I was letting go of something, maybe a small piece of my heart, of my old life, of my guy. . Thank you @inlandhills for gracefully welcoming Carol and I as we gave our best attempt at Andrew’s last message . It was a mile marker on our path towards healing and it was a Sunday I will hold close to my heart for the rest of my life. Thank you for being a church where messy people like me feel safe, loved, and surrounded. I love you IHC, you are one of a kind! (link in bio) #Godsstillgotthis
“Ninety percent of those who die by suicide are living with an underlying mental illness that is not being treated or is simply being misunderstood.”
Stoecklein admitted that mental illness is extremely complex, noting that Andrew’s psychiatrist, who had decades of experience in mental health care, told the family that we know but a “drop in the ocean about the mind.” Mental health conditions are multi-faceted and often extremely confusing to both those who are close to the sufferer and to the sufferer themselves.
In a powerful message challenging the Church to come alongside those who are going through a difficult season in their lives, Carol said that, too often, we walk in the other direction. “Mess isn’t fun,” she said. “Mess doesn’t Instagram well, does it?”
Carol continued: “Mess is messy, and God says to us ‘Go move toward the mess. There are hurting people all around you. Some of those people were placed in your life for a reason.'”
“God is saying to us today, through this message that Andrew wrote, ‘Go, move, I have a purpose for you here.'”
Kayla then read the story of the Good Samaritan, challenging the church to be better neighbors to those who are in need. “Our neighbor might not be the guy beaten up on the side of the road,” she said, “but we can all do a better job at opening our eyes to the everyday messy situations and messy people that surround us.”
Check out the full message below:
If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, or you just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you are looking for a counselor in your area, consult the Christian Counselors Network.