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Losing Jarrid Wilson: Where Do We Go From Here?

Photo taken from Jarrid’s Instagram

Written By Josiah Kennealy, USA

 

It was a few years ago that Jarrid Wilson and I were invited to the same event and we ended up staying connected afterwards. We chatted and encouraged each other, as we were both young adult pastors and had a lot in common. Every single interaction I ever had with him was life-giving.

In fact, on Monday night last week, we had just been messaging back and forth. He closed the conversation by saying, “Love you”. I tweeted shortly after about how he and a few others brighten social media and make the world around them a better place. To which he replied once more, “Love you”.

Those were sadly the last words he ever tweeted.

Finding out the news of what happened just hours or minutes after we talked brought me to a place of deep sadness, shock, bewilderment, and disbelief.

Jarrid Wilson, a husband to a beautiful wife and dad to two sons, a well-known pastor, author, and friend of many, took his own life suddenly and tragically.

This past week has been one where I haven’t had much to say, and I haven’t known what to do. As I type this, I am feeling unqualified to even write something that’s of worth, but I am going to try to shed some light and share some hope.

See, I’m a pastor too, and I’ve seen a counselor for mental and emotional health. I’ve also seen a doctor for physical health. I’ve been to a Chiropractor many times for adjustments. In fact, after the suicide of my uncle, I developed tension headaches for three long painful and hard years. I know very well that pain can be invisible from the outside and yet so very real on the inside—it’s no different with depression.
 

So Where Do We Go From Here?

Let’s be honest. We the church can’t stay here any longer. As I grapple with the tragic news of Jarrid’s death, here are some reflections I’ve had this week. We need to move from a place of:

 

Avoided to Addressed

It’s not okay that 800,000 people each year lose their life to suicide (World Health Organization). Among teens and young adults, suicide is one of the leading causes of death and that’s unacceptable.

And yet, mental health in the church is a topic that is taboo, avoided, and misunderstood. Let’s say sayonara to the stigma. Individually and collectively, we would all do well to have the willingness to have conversations vulnerably like Jarrid did.

This can look like a lot of different things, but for starters we need to recognize it’s okay to talk about it. Maybe nobody has ever given you permission to say you’re not okay, I want you to know that it is perfectly okay to say so. You might be asking a lot of questions—rightfully so. It’s also okay to admit that we don’t have all of the answers to life’s deepest questions.

We need to have more sermon series about anxiety, mental health, and depression; we must talk about it in our small groups, at youth on Wednesday nights; or simply get together for a cup of coffee and share our struggles with a friend. The Bible is filled with content we can cling to and chat about.

As we begin to normalize conversations about mental health and overall wellbeing, you will see that you are not the only one struggling and that a lot of people are facing anxiety, depression, and dark thoughts. And part of the design God has for the church is to encourage one another and help each other in hard times.

 

Isolated to Connected 

A recent Barna study showed that a majority of pastors don’t have someone to call a friend. Just last week, Barna Group also released a global youth study that shows only one-third of 18-35-year-olds (from 25 different countries) know that someone actually cares for them. That means over 66 percent of young adults don’t realize they are loved or cared for.

The enemy wants Christians to believe the lie that they are the only ones struggling and keep them in isolation. So we need to do better to tell people around us how much they mean to us. That can start with a text, a direct message, or a phone call to someone you love and care about who’s having a hard time right now. Being available to listen and being present is one of the greatest things a friend can offer. Your pastor needs your encouragement and prayers more than you realize.

Being connected to a local church and having godly friendships doesn’t cure everything, but it sure beats being alone. God created Eve for Adam because from the beginning He said it wasn’t good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18)! Jesus did life with 12 disciples for three years. The early church in Acts exploded because everyone wanted to be a part of this life-giving community that hung out together, ate together, prayed for each other’s struggles, studied Scripture, and shared generously to meet each other’s needs (Acts 2:42-47).

Let’s take a step to get connected today!

 

Broken to Hopeful 

It may not always feel like it, but the truth is that God has never left you. You’ve not been abandoned or alone. Look up to the hills and see that heaven is where your help comes from. Jesus is near to the brokenhearted. He will wipe every tear. You can cling to and trust in His promises.
I used to be broken, but God lifted my head. He turned my greatest sorrows into joy. He took away discouragement and brought new peace. I’m still on a journey and it’s still a process. I believe with all my heart this begins with abiding in Jesus like it says in John 15.

All week long, this is the passage that has brought me healing, help, and hope. Jesus taught, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:6). To me, and to all of us, this is a promise: we can do nothing apart from Jesus. Yet if we stay connected to Him, we can and will do all things.

Clinging to Jesus, clinging to loved ones, clinging to godly community, and clinging to helpful tools and resources are the necessary steps we need to help us get through each day.

And finally, I wish to say this to each of these groups:

To Jarrid – I love you, too. I deeply wish I had replied quicker and that our conversation could have lasted longer. I’m so sad that you made this decision. I’m praying for your family. We all are. We remember you by your voice for the hopeless, your friendship, your love for God, your family and everyone, and lastly, we remember your #anthemofhope. We honor you by picking up the mantle of leadership you’ve carried so well for so long. Thank you for bravely speaking up about your own struggles.

To Juli and the boys – We love you so very much. Our thoughts, our prayers, and our support are here for you and the family. We are here for you. I trust that Jesus will pick up the pieces even though life will never be the same. I pray peace, strength, and grace over you all.

To Those Who Knew Jarrid – I’ve gotten a lot of DMs, calls, and texts from mutual friends who also knew Jarrid. Relationships matter so much whether they are online connections or over a cup of coffee. As we face this great loss, may we rally closer than ever before.

To Pastors – You need hobbies, friends, breaks from technology. You preach the importance of community and now it’s time to live it. Admitting you need to see a doctor, a therapist, or a Christian counselor is not a sin and it is not a sign of weakness—it’s courageous. Jesus is described as a young man in Luke 2:52 “growing in wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with people.” That means Jesus grew in mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and relational health. Let us pursue health, wellness, rest, and wholeness in each of those areas.

To Everyone – We will all go through hardships, but there is help, there is healing, and there is hope. So hold on, there is such great hope. In nature and in daily life there are ups and downs, mountains and valleys, deserts and oases, there are storms and there is stillness.

 

You need to know you are not alone in any of these different circumstances. Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Let’s all agree to help each other come to a new level of understanding when it comes to mental health. Suicide is never the answer.

My prayer is we will all be bolder to talk about mental health and that we will see people with new eyes of understanding—that no matter how good things look on the outside, there might be more that’s going on inside of them. Let those closest to us know how much we love them and how much they mean to us no matter what season they are in. Let’s showcase love, empathy, and community.

“I Know How You Feel” & Other Things Not To Say

Title: “I Know How You Feel” & Other Things Not To Say
Artwork by: YMI
Description: How do we respond to a friend who has confided in us their suicidal thoughts? Often, we struggle to find the right words to say–especially when our words often leave a lot unsaid and may fail to bring across our good intentions. How then can we ensure our words are seasoned with love and grace?

Come alongside us as we explore how we can use our words to support and encourage our friends, and remind them that they are not alone in this battle.

*Professional help is available, so if you or anyone you know are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to your local crisis line.

#SuicidePreventionDay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor’s Picks: Best of the Conversation About Suicide

Suicide is one of the toughest topics to talk about. It can be tempting to sweep the “S word” under the carpet, skirting around the issue. But what if we fostered a Christ-centered dialogue around suicide instead?

Help! I Can’t Stop Overthinking!

Hands shaking, I clung to my iPhone as I searched the Internet.

WebMD. Got it.

A few seconds later, I found myself reading through symptoms of a brain tumor.

Headaches? Check.

Vision problems? Check.

See, you’ve got two of the main symptoms.

But there are others I don’t have.

But you’ve got these two. You’ve got to see a doctor. What if you have a brain tumor?

After weeks of vision problems, I booked myself a trip to the doctor, convinced that my death sentence awaited me in that examination chair. It would only be a matter of time. It was a constant downward spiral I couldn’t seem to crawl out of.

What if you find out you’ve got a brain tumour?  Stop.

It would explain all of your vision problems.  Stop right now. 

It might have been there all this time.  Stop this, Rachel.

And you’ll find out what you’ve always feared.  Stop.

One look at your optic nerve and . . . STOP!

With tears streaming down my face, I pleaded with my doctor to conduct whatever test he deemed appropriate in order to rule out my fear.

After an hour’s worth of tests and scans, I was embarrassed to find out that after all the time and energy I had spent worrying, my headaches and vision problems came down to stress and what he called “ocular migraines.”

“Stress?” I blew my nose into a tissue.

“Yes, you need more rest,” he confirmed as he proceeded to hand me more tissues. Then he offered me some advice I’d struggle to forget.

“If you go looking for something to be wrong, you will eventually find it.”

Now, he wasn’t for one second suggesting that it was a waste of time for me to come in. But he was inferring that our fears have the power to concoct something into being, and that if we let our imaginations run away with us, it might lead to trouble.

 

How We Know When It’s All Gone Wrong

Perhaps you have never had the joy of experiencing a panic attack at your optician’s office like I have, but there is likely something in your life that keeps you on a mental hamster wheel. Your relationship. Your work. Your health. Your finances. Your living situation.

And the more weight we place on this one thing, the more potential there is for the enemy to keep us sick with worry about it, similar to how my active imagination left me in fear-locked shambles for weeks leading up to my doctor’s appointment.

This issue of destructive thought patterns has been on my heart for some time, and I have learned that we can claim back our imaginations—we have to! The reality is, our feelings are extremely misleading and can’t always be trusted. Once I realized how much air time I was giving to negative voices in my life instead of God’s voice, I knew that something had to change, and I needed to learn to tune into the right voices.

 

Reclaiming Our Imaginations

Our imaginations are a fascinating part of who we are. They are a beautiful, magnificent, inspiring part of us. Our imagination is the birthing place for every incredible, ground-breaking, creative idea that we will have. It’s an extraordinary incubator of inspiration and catalyst for endless opportunities.

But, it can also imprison us if we allow it to go astray.

Friend, listen to me. There is a war going on right now. And it is a battle for our minds (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy is after your imagination (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), but thankfully, we don’t have to live shackled to fear. God has a purpose for each of us (Ephesians 2:10). A rich destiny. He has already spoken His promises to us (Jeremiah 29:11, Hebrews 13:5, 1 Peter 5:6-7). Now we just need to speak them to ourselves.

I don’t know anything more powerful in overcoming negative thought patterns than meditating on Scripture—which is why one of the most important steps to overcoming negative self-talk is learning how to take back control of the conversation.

Take it from the hypochondriac herself. We need to stop listening to our mind’s wandering thoughts, and start listening to what God says about us and His plans for us.

If there is anything I have learned from repeated episodes of panic, it is that our lives tend to follow the direction of our conversations. Courage and fear both come from those conversations with ourselves.

Instead of anxiety being my go-to response, I want prayer and recalling scriptural promises to become my knee-jerk reaction whenever life turns pear-shaped.

I’m not by any means suggesting that we ignore our problems. If anything, I think we need to be realistic and face them head on with practical solutions and supernatural wisdom from the Bible. However, we also need to remind our concerns of where they stand in relation to God—His voice, not my negative self-talk, is the authority of my life.

Right now, I am wrestling with this truth. I want so badly to get to a place where I can see my problems and not get hung up on them but to hang on tightly to the promises of God instead. Throughout the Bible, God has promised many times to watch over His children, and I know He will watch over me and carry me through any difficulty I might face. So I will keep on striving to remember that truth.

I will never leave you nor forsake you. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. (from Hebrews 13:5, Jeremiah 31:3, Jeremiah 29:11)

Will you join me in tuning into God’s voice?