Like us, many of you were saddened and shocked to learn of the loss of Pastor Rick Warren’s 27-year old son, Matthew, who took his own life after suffering for years with depression and mental illness.
Pastor Rick is like extended family to my husband Dave and me. Dave and I attended Saddleback Church for over 23 years, and twenty years ago, we met each other in a small group. We’ve watched Saddleback church grow from meeting in a high school gym, to the mega church the world knows today.
Pastor Rick will always be “our pastor.” Even though we have since moved to another state and are members of a church in our community . . . . we’re still all in the family of God. And so it is that Dave and I mourn and grieve with Pastor Rick and Kay and our extended Saddleback family.
The Grieving Process Can Lead To or Away from God
Matthew took his own life with a purchased gun, but someone took my father’s life with his own gun. He was a California Highway Patrolman killed in the line of duty while trying to help the very man who killed him. My father had chosen a career protecting his community. He died two weeks before his 37th birthday doing exactly what he had signed on to do.
My mother shook her fist at God and said no just God would ever allow this to happen. I watched my mother’s bitterness and anger cause her to deteriorate emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally . . . resulting in a difficult childhood for my sister and me. Praise God, two years after my father’s death, I was invited to a church youth camp where I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
But when I became an adult, mom and I were estranged for 15 years. Then one of Pastor Rick’s sermons went straight to my heart when he said, “You’ll never experience true love if there’s someone in your life you haven’t forgiven.” I had been a single mom for 17 years and realized that if I didn’t forgive my mom, I would probably never have a happy marriage relationship. I did forgive her and within months, met my wonderful godly husband Dave.
Misconceptions Stop Us from Forgiving
In my Bible study, Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community, I discuss the myths about forgiveness and the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation:
FORGIVENESS is not allowing anyone else to control your emotional life except GOD!
FORGIVENESS is VERTICAL between God and you.
RECONCILIATION is HORIZONTAL between you and the other person
If you’re struggling with forgiveness or difficult relationships, studying Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche will help you discover biblical ways of resolving conflict. Here are several of the myths that prevent us from granting unconditional forgiveness:
FORGIVENESS MYTHS I LEARNED FROM PASTOR RICK
TRUTH: Forgiveness is a process.
TRUTH: Forgiveness does not make sin into good. Sin is never “ok.”
TRUTH: We are not God. When God forgives, He doesn’t need to learn anything. We do!
TRUTH: You do not have to be reconciled to forgive, but you do have to be able to forgive in order to reconcile.
“Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges” (Colossians 3:13 TLB).
Who do you need to forgive so you can be free from the chains of bitterness and anger? You can do it! Listen to Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness” ,which starts out…
It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have to say the word…