“At a time like this, there are just no words,” Harvest Senior Pastor Greg Laurie in a statement.
“Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people,” Laurie said. “We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not.”
“At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for His help and strength, each and every day,” he added.
News of Wilson’s death followed tweets the young pastor posted throughout the day Monday that dealt with suicide, including a post saying that even though loving Jesus doesn’t cure illnesses such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, Jesus does offer companionship and comfort.
Wilson also posted on the same day that he was officiating a funeral for a woman who had died by suicide. Kay Warren — who along with her husband, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, lost their son to suicide in 2013 — responded to Wilson’s tweet with encouragement. “Praying, Jarrid. Her devastated family needs so much tenderness and compassion right now. Grateful for your willingness to be the arms of Jesus to them,” Warren wrote.
The news Tuesday of Wilson’s death comes on World Suicide Prevention Day and follows a number of high-profile suicides among pastors and people in the mental health community, including 30-year-old Andrew Stoecklein, a pastor in Chino, Calif., who often preached about mental illness.
Wilson shared his mental health challenges in his most recent book, “Love Is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World,” and blog posts. He blogged earlier this summer that he had dealt with “severe depression throughout most of my life and contemplated suicide on multiple occasions.”
On social media, he regularly encouraged others dealing with similar challenges, with messages such as: “I’m a Christian who also struggles with depression. This exists, and it’s okay to admit it.”
Laurie said Wilson wanted to especially help those who were dealing with suicidal thoughts.
“Tragically, Jarrid took his own life,” Laurie said.
“Over the years, I have found that people speak out about what they struggle with the most,” he added.
Breaking down the stigma of mental illness is one of the goals of Anthem of Hope, the nonprofit the pastor founded with his wife, Juli, in 2016. Anthem of Hope creates resources for the church to assist those dealing with depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide.
In his summer blog post, Wilson challenged the idea that those who die by suicide are condemned to hell.
Christians wouldn’t tell someone with a physical illness such as cancer that they are going to hell because of their diagnosis, he noted. Neither should they assume it of people with mental illnesses, which can “lead many people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do if they didn’t struggle.”
“Those who say suicide automatically leads to hell obviously don’t understand the totality of mental health issues in today’s world, let alone understand the basic theology behind compassion and God’s all-consuming grace,” he said.
“We must do better at educating people on things they have a hard time wrapping their heads around,” he said. “And mental health is definitely [a] topic Christians around the world must yearn to better understand.”
Justin Herman said he knew Wilson from working as a pastor in Riverside. They would cross paths and talk about mental health and abortion.
“I know the guy loved Jesus and I know that he loved what he was doing, loved his family,” Herman said.
To Herman, Wilson was “not just going with the program of life.”
“He was counter to culture and shaped culture in a lot of ways,” Herman said.
In addition to his wife, Wilson is survived by two sons, Finch and Denham; and his mother, father and siblings.
(This story has been updated. The source of the statement from Harvest Christian Fellowship, attributed in an earlier version to Administrative Pastor Paul Eaton, was changed at the request of the church to Senior Pastor Greg Laurie.)