Harvest Church has held a special service honoring Pastor Jarrid Wilson and giving the faith community space to grieve his untimely death.
After a powerful time of worship and praise, Greg Laurie’s son, Jonathan, greeted the congregation and set the tone of the evening with some impactful words.
“Tonight, we can glory in the fact that we know our brother, our friend, Pastor Jarrid Wilson, is at home in the arms of Jesus,” he declared, “because he put his faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior.”
During the course of the service, Pastor Greg Laurie paid heartfelt tribute to Wilson, noting that he was “positive, vibrant, and always serving and helping others.”
He also addressed the 30-year-old father’s profound battle with mental illness.
“He also dealt with very deep depression,” Laurie explained. “It actually went back to his childhood, and he was under a doctor’s care.”
Laurie recalled the utter shock of finding out that Wilson had taken his own life.
“When I heard the news that Jarrid was gone, I just couldn’t believe it. I screamed, I yelled, ‘No, God, no!,'” he said. “It comes as a shock to people, because people often [falelsy] think we, as pastors and leaders, are above the struggles of everyday life.”
Continuing to set the record straight, Laurie made a declaration about Wilson’s eternal destiny. “Jarrid had put his faith in Christ, and that’s why I believe, right now, he is in the presence of the Lord in heaven,” he said.
“One dark moment in a Christian’s life cannot undo what Christ did for us on the cross,” Laurie added, reciting Romans 8:38:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Speaking of the night that Jarrid took his own life, Laurie urged caution to those who are tempted to make rash assumptions and judgments about the situation.
“We don’t know what was going on in his mind that night,” the evangelist explained. “He was dealing with medical challenges and other extenuating circumstances we know nothing of. So, it’s really not fair to be passing judgment — this is a time for compassion.”
Even prophets didn’t have all the answers
Laurie wisely pointed out that, seeing as several leading Biblical figures suffered from debilitating depression and mental health issues, why should we anticipate this will be any different for those in church leadership? “Job wished he had never been born. Jeremiah, at least on one occasion, wanted to die. Jonah wanted to die too,” Pastor Greg explained.
Laurie also recalled a time that he preached on the prophet Elijah’s experience of deep depression. “Here’s a man that God used to bring miracles, yet he was so depressed that he wanted to die,” he explained. “I just pointed out that we can have times of depression, we can have times where we’re sad, and it doesn’t mean our faith is gone or we’re a failure as believers.. it means we’re hopelessly human and we constantly need Christ.”
Laurie added that Wilson personally showed his appreciation for those honest remarks. “Jarrid came up to me after the service and thanked me for saying those things,” he added.
In the days following Wilson’s death, there has not only been an outpouring of grief, but also an increased honesty and awareness of those suffering from mental illness. Adding to that conversation, Greg went on to implore people to “reach out to Christian friends” if they are “down and alone.”
“It’s a really good thing to do,” he said. “I ask for prayer, I ask for wisdom. We all need that network of people around us.”
Mental illness is physical
Laurie also rightly warned people against “pointing fingers” after someone has taken their own life. “They think ‘why did they do that? Why didn’t they just snap out of that slump? Shrug off this case of the blues?'”
“Let me ask this question: if Jarrid’s diagnosis was a physical one, would we ask those questions?” Greg said boldly. “When we’re dealing with someone who is having mental struggles, it can be an illness as much as a physical illness can be a part of one’s life.”
“Yes, suicide is a wrong choice… haven’t we all made wrong choices, and did not Christ die for people like us?” Laurie asked. “I’ll tell you one choice he made that was the best ever.. and that was accepting Christ.”
Laurie issued an important reminder: that the love and grace of Jesus covers every single wrong choice we make while on this earth.
“When you stand before God, you won’t be judged by the last thing that you did before you died. You’ll be judged by the last thing Jesus did before he died. He died for your sin,” he declared.
Concluding his remarks, Laurie urged: “When the Devil comes knocking, ask Jesus to answer the door.”
‘We Don’t Know Why’
Later in the service, mental health advocate Kay Warren spoke about the hope of Christ, which can still be found even in the midst of severe depression.
Pastor’s Rick and Kay lost their son Matthew to suicide back in 2013. “Matthew was diagnosed with depression when he was just 7,” Kay explained. “He lived for 20 years with increasingly serious mental illness.”
Warren noted that she and her husband were tormented with questions in the aftermath of their son’s sudden death — questions that are likely to confront anyone grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide.
“We don’t know why Jarrid took his life,” she said. “In fact, the only two people who know that are Jarrid and Jesus.”
Much of suicide, Kay said, is completely inexplicable. As such, we may struggle to be able to fathom how such things can occur — unfortunately, we cannot put suicide in a nice neat box and explain it all away.
Why? Because “this is earth, this is not heaven,” Kay said. “Everything here on earth is messy” and complex.
“Some of what you ask, you will not know. There has to be, as you mourn, a releasing of those [questions] to God.”
‘Everything Jarrid said about God is 100% true’
Kay went on to address a very difficult question that many may be wrestling with: ‘How can I trust what Jarrid said about God when he was alive, now that he has taken his own life?’
“I would tell you, don’t let what happened in one dark moment of his life in any way cancel out the fact that every single word Jarrid said to you about God is 100% true,” Kay said. “God is good, God is trustworthy.”
“Every single thing that he proclaimed to you from this pulpit or any Bible study or personal conversation — anything he ever told you about the truth of God — is true. [His death] does not in any way minimize or negate the ministry he had to this church or to you,” she added.
Warren encouraged the Harvest congregation to “grieve together and give each other some space,” as they deal with the profound questions, confusion and maybe even anger over Jarrid’s death.
‘My Life is Not My Own’
Speaking to those who might be in the midst of a struggle with mental illness, Warren boldly proclaimed that, although suicide is not “the unforgivable sin,” this in “no way gives us permission to end our own lives.”
“The Bible says that we belong to God — we have been bought and paid for,” she said. “My life doesn’t belong to me, my life belongs to God. Our times are in His hands.”
Warren concluded with a powerful quote from British olympian and “Chariots of Fire” star, Eric Liddell:
“Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless amongst the ruins. God’s love is still working — he comes in and he takes the calamity and he uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love.”
“It may appear that Jarrid’s death has ruined so much — and there is ruin…” Kay explained, “but God is not helpless in the ruins.”
“God is still at work.”
You can support Juli Wilson and her two boys financially by donating here.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, or you just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re looking for counseling services in your area, consult the Christian Counselors Network.