Andrew Stoecklein was pastor of a megachurch in California who took his life last week. I’ve seen many stories shared about this man this week. I’ve seen articles about social media posts his wife has made in the wake of the loss of her husband.
It’s an incredibly sad story. Successful young pastor. Growing megachurch. He had struggled with depression and anxiety. Stoecklein had actually taken a four month sabbatical as he was battling these mental health issues and had returned earlier this month.
I’m not an expert on this man’s mental health, or suicide, or his treatment.
I’m just a guy who wishes things would have turned out differently.
There are people who struggle mightily with mental health issues.
What I’m writing about today is that I’m also not fatalistic about people who struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide. There is always hope. A great place to start for people who are really struggling is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They can be reached via phone or messaged online. 1-800-273-8255.
From a theological perspective, it is never the answer. And my point isn’t to condemn the deceased. But for the living, there is hope.
God is big enough and great enough to be with you in those times where all hope seems lost. God is a God of life. He sent his son so that we could have eternal life (John 3:16). And Jesus didn’t just come so that we could have life but so we could have life abundantly (John 10:10).
That isn’t to say that life isn’t really really hard sometimes. It is.
That’s not to say that, by faith, all of the problems and struggles go away. They don’t.
All of the struggles we face in life are allowed by God. God is sovereign over his creation. We don’t always know the reasons why we have the struggles that we face. But it is through the most trying times that we have the opportunities to experience the greatest growth.
A person might be tempted to be cynical about all of this, and feel like there’s no point, and feel like it can’t get any better. If that’s you, you should be cynical about your cynicism. Don’t believe the lie that things can’t get better, that you can’t experience joy, have a life of meaning. You can have all of those things. Again, it might not always be easy. But you were created for a purpose and your life does have meaning.
Community is something we were created for and something that we need. There are people who care about you and who love you. In the face of despair, it can be tempting to feel like they’d be better off without you, but the people who love you would tell you that’s wrong.
We were made to serve God.God created us to serve him and to serve his church. Everyday that God gives us is a day where we can serve God and serve others. Another benefit of service is that it takes the focus off of ourselves.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is the Beatitudes from Matthew 5.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The kingdom of heaven is for the poor in Spirit. For those who recognize their imperfection and sin when compared to the holy and righteous God. The good news is that God is a loving God and has made us for eternal life.
Jesus says “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The mourning is mourning the sin that is in our lives and in the world. The gospel message is grounded in reality. It acknowledges that things are not as they should be.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Meekness is not being weak or passive, but it’s being submissive to the will of God. That’s where true life is found. It’s not in how much money we have, how much we’ve accomplished, how good our health is. True life can only come from God.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Life and joy is found in pursuing the righteousness of God.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” The mercy that Jesus speaks of is not merely forgiving others (that’s part of it, and we should forgive), but the mercy largely revolves around showing compassion to others. Having concern for others.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” One of the greatest promises in all of scripture. Something that is meant to be at the bedrock of how we live. That when we live lives to the glory of God, that in that, we see God.
The good news of the gospel is that the power of the cross and what Jesus did on the cross is powerful enough to bring anyone life. No one is ever so far gone that Jesus can’t redeem and the gospel can’t take root in their hearts.
No matter where you are or what’s going on in your life, you’re not too far gone.
Thanks for reading!
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.