Rick Warren’s son, Matthew Warren, dies of an apparent suicide Friday night after struggling with mental illness and depression throughout his life, according to the Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest.
“Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many,” the statement said.
“Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life.”
Warren, the author of the multimillion-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life,” said in an email to church staff that he and his wife had enjoyed a fun Friday evening with their son before Matthew returned home to take his life in “a momentary wave of despair.”
Over the years, Matthew had been treated by America’s best doctors, had received counseling and medication and been the recipient of numerous prayers from others, his father said.
Still, he struggled over the years.
“I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said ‘Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?’” Warren recalled.
Despite that, he said, his son lived for another decade, during which he often reached out to help others.
“You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man,” Warren wrote. “He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.”
The elder Warren founded Saddleback Church in 1980, according to his biography on the church website, and over the years watched it grow to 20,000 members. He and his wife, Kay, began by holding Bible studies for people who weren’t regular churchgoers.