Just days ago, associate pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship Jarrid Wilson took his own life at the age of 30, following a decades-long battle with depression. As a Christian who has also struggled with depression to the point of putting a gun to my head at age 21, I am bewildered and bemoaning the loss of his life. Unfortunately, this tragic loss is a harsh reality of depression yet a beautiful reminder that Jesus is greater still.
It’s important to understand that depression is not uncommon, and Jarrid’s battle was not unique among pastors. In 2017, the National Institute of Mental Health confirmed that more than 7% of all U.S. adults had experienced a major depressive episode. Another recent study showed that depression is on the rise, and society’s increasing screen addictions play a correlative role. Since technology is only destined to play a greater part in our daily lives as time goes on, this trend is likely to go up.
Jarrid was courageous about his own struggle with depression and extended open arms to everyone going through difficult times. He did not allow the shame of his struggles to silence him, and in that, he gave hope to many through Christ as they recognized that although the world is hurting, that does not mean we are alone or rejected in Christ. In fact, just the opposite; God has made us righteous and freed us from condemnation.
Jarrid dedicated much of his life ministry to de-stigmatizing mental health battles among Christians, even founding a non-profit organization to help those facing similar struggles, Anthem of Hope. His wife’s words written in an Instagram caption after his passing beautifully surmise the realities of both depression and our hope in Jesus:
No more pain, my Jerry, no more struggle. You are made complete and you are finally free. Suicide and depression fed you the worst lies, but you knew the truth of Jesus and I know you’re by his side right this very second.
While not all mental health issues are due to the forces of darkness, her words capture the truth that depression and suicide are often deceptive attacks from the enemy and that, at the same time, Jarrid was a strong man of God who is living with Him in Heaven right now. Regardless of their origin, suicidal thoughts need to be addressed head-on, and those suffering need access to every resource; this includes counseling, medication, support groups and yes, spiritual wisdom and encouragement.
God worked in and through Jarrid, using the brokenness of depression to beckon people to the light of Christ. This event reminds us that although our ultimate hope is in Jesus, we are mortals living in a dark world where people are broken and Satan has influence. His lies are strong and enticing, often resembling what seems right even though they couldn’t be more wrong.
If you are currently in the thick of depression and/or suicidal thoughts, please know that you are not alone. Thoughts of self-violence, feelings of hopelessness, escapism and depression are not indicators of weakness, insanity or a lack of strength and faith. They are the realities of living in a fallen world and there are viable resources to help heal and recover. There is no shame!
Jarrid was not alone in this struggle as shown by the number of individuals blessed by the efforts of Anthem of Hope. God’s Word says He will never leave us nor forsake us. It is a blessing to be assured that even though we may feel otherwise, we are not alone in our battles, either.
If you are a Christian who does not struggle with this battle, ask God to show you those who are hurting and be committed to showing the same kindness Jarrid Wilson did through offering prayer, wisdom, resources and a listening ear. Conversely, if you are a believer who secretly wrestles with thoughts of suicide don’t isolate, hide or hesitate to immediately reach for lifelines of rescue.
And for everyone reading this, familiarize yourself with the Good News of Christ and the truth of the Bible which is true yesterday, today and forever. It was there before the first suicidal thought and is an incredible resource to show others a path of peace, love and restoration.