This past Sunday, Seacoast Church in South Carolina posted a video in remembrance of Pastor Darrin Patrick, who died suddenly on May 7. Seacoast’s founding pastor, Greg Surratt, gave the message, during which he shared part of Patrick’s story and explored what the Bible says about how to respond when we lose a friend.
“I believe that this week, God has been crying,” said Surratt. “He’s been crying with the Patrick family as they weep, especially at night. He’s been crying with all of Darrin’s friends, and he’s been crying with this Seacoast family that we love so much.”
Greg Surratt: Our Hearts Are Broken
“A week ago Thursday, we lost a friend,” said Surratt. Surratt first met Darrin Patrick at a gathering of church planting organizations. Patrick was an impressive communicator who had written books and was a featured speaker at major conferences worldwide. The two agreed to exchange numbers, and Surratt was surprised when Patrick asked, “Are you going to answer me when I call?”
At first, Surratt thought this was an arrogant question. “But later,” he said, “I found that it was a sincere question of an orphan looking for a spiritual father.” The pastors kept up a friendship throughout the years and spoke at each other’s churches. Patrick was pastoring at The Journey Church in St. Louis, Missouri, during that time. Then about four years ago, he called Surratt with sobering news. “He was in trouble,” said Surratt. He had made some poor decisions that, taken as a whole, were “very troubling.”
Journey ended up letting Patrick go, although Surratt made it clear that the church was very supportive of Patrick through that experience. Then, said Surratt, Patrick “entered into a deeply flawed recovery process of which I was a part…I thought it was destructive at times.” Surratt said he talked to Patrick about his concerns, but the pastor responded, “I want to stick it out.”
“The landscape was littered at that point with leaders who fell and chose not to submit to a process of restoration,” said Surratt. “And he didn’t want that.”
Patrick slowly recovered. Surratt eventually asked him to share his story with Seacoast and then with more people, including other pastors. “Pastors just gravitated toward Darrin,” said Surratt, “especially those who were hurting.” Darrin Patrick came on staff with Seacoast, and he and Surratt started The Pastors Collective to give church leaders a safe place to process their challenges. Said Surratt, “We dreamed of helping leaders lead in a healthy way, and I believe we were making a difference in many, many lives.”
Then Surratt got a call from Patrick’s wife with the news that he was gone. Patrick was out shooting and his gun went off and took his life. Was it intentional? “I’m going to be honest,” said Surratt. “We don’t know yet.”
“The bottom line is that our friend is gone and our hearts are broken,” he said. “The circumstances are complicated. There’s an ongoing investigation. We may know soon, or we may never know. We’re learning to trust God. And we will be honest with you in the process.”
Learning from Jesus
We can learn a lot, said Surratt, about how to respond when we lose a friend by looking at how Jesus responds to the death of his friend Lazarus in John 11. Jesus deliberately stays away when his good friend is sick and only comes after Lazarus dies because the plan is for God to be glorified through Lazarus’s resurrection. Yet when Jesus arrives and sees everyone mourning, he grieves with them. Said Surratt, “You need to know that when you hurt, God weeps.” Even though Jesus knew “the end of the story,” that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he still wept over death and the pain it caused.
God gives us the freedom not to have all the answers and not to pretend that we have it all together. At first, when Surratt heard the news about Patrick’s death, he put on his “game face.” But then he came to a point where he was alone and broke down and sobbed. He said, “At that moment I was nobody’s pastor. I wasn’t a leader. I was the son of a broken-hearted father who felt my pain. A father who knows the end of the story but chooses to weep with me.”
Surratt warned those watching not to bypass mourning in their haste to understand why something happened. “So many well-meaning pundits are already weighing in on Darrin’s life without pausing to reflect and to mourn,” he said. “Give it time. We think we have to do something, and what we need to do is to sit. I’ve done a lot of that this week.”
We also need to focus our anger in the right direction. Anger is a normal part of grieving, and we see people feeling anger in John 11. Lazarus’s sister, Martha, seems as though she could have some anger at Jesus because he did not show up in time to save Lazarus from dying. People in the crowd wonder why Jesus didn’t stop Lazarus from dying even though he had healed the eyes of a blind man.
“Have you ever been angry at God?” asked Surratt. “Sometimes it’s hard to see God’s higher purpose in your grief and in your pain.” It is normal for us to feel angry, but it is dangerous to remain in the lies we believe when we’re angry. Said Surratt, “As your pastor, that’s the biggest thing I’m concerned about right now.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Jesus is also angry at Lazarus’s death, but he is not angry at any person or at God. Rather, he is angry at death itself, described in 1 Cor. 15:24-26 as our enemy. His anger has the right focus.
Finally, we need to remember that death never has the final word. In John 11:26, Jesus tells Martha that whoever believes in him will never die. He then demonstrates his power over death by raising Lazarus from the dead.
Because Patrick believed in Jesus, he is with him now. Even though he died, death does not have the final word. Instead, Patrick has eternal life.
The biggest question at the moment, said Surratt, is, do you have this eternal life? Do you believe in Jesus? If not, said the pastor, trusting in Jesus is the best way you can honor Patrick’s memory today.
This article originally appeared here.