Andrew Stoecklein, the lead pastor of Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, tried to take his own life on Friday, August 25, 2018. Though he was rushed to the hospital and put on life support, he sadly passed away on Saturday.
“Last night, the love of my life, the father of my children and the pastor of our incredible church took his last breath and went to be with Jesus,” his wife Kayla wrote on Instagram. “It wasn’t the miracle I was hoping for but he is now in heaven with his dad, free of pain, free of depression and anxiety.”
Last night, the love of my life, the father of my children and the pastor of our incredible church took his last breath and went to be with Jesus. It wasn’t the miracle I was hoping for but he is now in heaven with his dad, free of pain, free of depression and anxiety. • He was an amazing husband, he truly made me better, made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world, and he loved me so deeply. We fit so well together, we were one. He was an amazing daddy, his three boys are going to miss him so much. He had such a unique and special relationship with each of them. He was an incredibly gifted teacher, communicator, and pastor. He was special, one of a kind and will be missed by thousands of people all around the world. • Please pray for me and the boys. I don’t know how I am going to face this, I am completely heartbroken, lost, and empty. Never in a million years would I have imagined this would be the end of his story. • If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, please tell someone. Please make sure you’re not alone, and please call a friend or family member before you make that irreversible decision. You are loved and valued more than you know! #godsgotthis
A vicious, hard-fought battle with depression and anxiety was cited by both Kayla and Inland Hills Church as the reason for Andrew’s suicide.
His tragic passing has rocked the nation and ramped up the need for the church to talk about mental health and suicide prevention.
“In this tragedy, we encourage anyone who is hurting emotionally to ask for help,” Inland Hills urged in an update. “If you or anyone else is struggling, the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) is a potentially life-saving resource. May we be a beacon of hope for the community, to rescue the hurting and honor the God that Andrew served so well.”
Now, only a few days after the tragedy, Andrew’s grieving wife Kayla has come forth to write a letter to her dear Andrew, and it is both moving and heart-shattering beyond words.
“To My Andrew, It’s only been 3 days,” she writes in opening. “Nothing can take away the suffocating pain I feel now you are gone. I miss every part of you, I see you everywhere. I replay the events of that fateful day over and over again in my mind wishing I could have done things differently. Wishing I could have held your hand one more time and prayed over you and told you how much I love you, how much I believe in you, and how God’s got this too.”
You can almost feel Kayla’s heartbreak in your bones as she continues to talk about her husband’s struggles and how regretful she is about not fully understanding the depths of his pain:
“You were right all along, I truly didn’t understand the depths of your depression and anxiety. I didn’t understand how real and how relentless the spiritual attacks were. The pain, the fear, and the turmoil you must have been dealing with every single day is unimaginable.”
She also boldly calls out the enemy for attacking a man of God who Satan KNEW was a threat to his wicked kingdom:
“The enemy knew what an amazing man you were. The enemy knew God had huge plans for your life. The enemy saw how God was using your gifts, abilities, and unique teaching style to reach thousands of lives for Him. The enemy hated it and he pursued you incessantly. Taunting you and torturing you in ways that you were unable to express to anyone.”
Despite his mental health battles, Andrew was on fire for the Lord, and Satan had a plan to destroy him.
Kayla goes on to make a heart-wrenching list of all the reasons she’s so terribly sorry:
“Andrew I want to tell you from the depths of my heart and my pain I am so sorry.
I am so sorry you were so scared,
I am so sorry you felt so alone,
I am so sorry you felt misunderstood,
I am so sorry you felt betrayed and deeply hurt by the words and actions of others,
I am so sorry you were fighting a dark spiritual war virtually alone,
I am so sorry you were unable to fully get the help and support you needed.”
The grieving wife also lists all the “one more chances” she wishes she got with her beloved husband, like holding him, crying with him, and encouraging him. She wishes Andrew could hold their sons one last time and at least tell them goodbye… though of course neither they, nor she, was ready to.
While Andrew’s dad was battling leukemia we clinged to the phrase “God’s Got This.” • It was Andrew’s idea to create a blog so that people could follow along the journey. Andrew was incredibly passionate about the phrase “God’s Got This.” • We have sent hundreds of thousands of wristbands all over the world with those precious words embedded on it. • Our family is still holding tight to that phrase even now. We are choosing to believe that “God’s Got This.” We don’t understand it, we hate it, it makes us angry, we can’t even breathe, but we are trusting God. • This morning I wrote a post to my husband, if he was here these are the words I would say to him. You can read the post on godsgotthis.org . • Andrew, we will keep “God’s Got This” alive in your name. #godsgotthis
Unable to eat, sleep, or function after the tragic loss of her husband, it’s amazing Kayla could even muster up the words to write this soul-wrecking, yet deeply impactful letter.
“I am not ready to say goodbye. I am so madly and deeply in love with you. Every part of me longs to be with you. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t function and I feel so lost without you. You were my life. I was so proud to be your wife Andrew. I was so proud to sit in the front row and watch you in your sweet spot on stage. I was always so amazed by you, every single day. You could do anything you set your mind to! You were handy, you made every home we lived in look beautiful inside and out. You were creative, you were funny, you were thoughtful, you were passionate, you had vision, you had charisma, and you were so special. You are irreplaceable Andrew. There will never be another man like you.”
Kayla charges that no matter what, she will never stop fighting for Andrew and that she will continue to tell the world what a truly amazing man he was.
“Your name will be honored and you will be remembered as a hero,” she promises.
“You fought the good fight, and I can only imagine the incredible place God had prepared for you when you walked through the gates of heaven. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to see your dad again, healthy and strong. I can only imagine how much joy you must feel now that you are truly free. I wish I could be there with you, celebrating on the streets of gold. But for now, I will continue to live for you. I will raise our boys to be men of God, just like you were. Your name will live on in a powerful way. Your story has the power to save lives, change lives, and transform the way the Church supports pastors.”
In signing off, Kayla thanks Andrew for “10 wonderful years together” and three precious blued-eyed sons who look just like daddy. She also thanks him for choosing her and teaching her to live life fearlessly.
In this horrific time, Kayla is choosing to cling to God for her strength and trust that this tragedy will be used for good and His glory:
“Until we meet again I will cling to my Father in heaven. He will carry me through every second, every minute, every hour of every day. I read a verse this morning and I know God is reminding me that even now, in the midst of my deepest pain that He has got this:
‘Because you are close to me and always available my confidence will never be shaken, for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.’ Psalm 16:8 (TPT)
With all my heart and all my love,
During this time of unthinkable grief, please join us in praying for Kayla, her children, and the Inland Hills Church congregation. I pray that Andrew, his struggles, and his story are never forgotten and may profoundly impact the lives of others.
If you would like to help support the Stoecklein family, you may donate to their GoFundMe page here.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text “START” to 741-741.