The Most Important Interview I’ve Ever Done

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Piers, Rick, and KayAfter teaching How to Get Through What You’re Going Through” for the past eight weeks, Kay and I felt it was time to grant the first media interview since Matthew’s death. We chose CNN’s Piers Morgan Live because it offered a full-hour for us to share our thoughts, rather than just short sound bites.

What happened in the taping surprised us all. Several members of the tech/camera crew were in tears, hugged us, and told us that their lives had been profoundly impacted by the experience. Piers Morgan was unusually sensitive to the moment, allowing us all the time we needed without interruption. At lunch, Piers shared that it was the most moving interview he’s ever done.

In kindness, the CNN team came to us, taping the interview at our Acts of Mercy family foundation office. In our conversation, we discussed:

  • What it was like to parent a child who battled mental illness all his life.
  • What it has been like to grieve our son’s suicide as public figures.
  • Mental illness, depression, guns, grief, and God.
  • What needs to change in our culture, including removing the stigma from mental illness.
  • How to support the mentally ill and the families who care for them.
  • How our faith has been tested and has grown stronger.
  • How we get our sins forgiven, purpose for living, and home in heaven through Jesus.
  • The overwhelming love we’ve received from our church family and others.
  • How God gives us HOPE in our darkest days.

The interview was raw and real. The CNN crew and our staff watched almost breathlessly. For an entire hour, you could’ve heard a pin drop, everyone was so riveted by what God was doing through the conversation.

I wanted to take an opportunity to pass along some of the most significant things we were privileged to say, and I would welcome your feedback on the interview.

The Six Stages of Grief

Rick:

Well, you know, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross did this thing, this thing called the four stages of death and dying and I actually think there are six. And we’ve been watching ourselves go through this back and forth now for several months.

I think the first stage is shock. And for us, shock still happens. For at least the first month, I kept waiting for Matthew to come in the door… I just couldn’t believe that it happened. It was so sudden. And then you move from shock to sorrow, sadness, and this profound sadness that comes into your life. Then you move to what I call struggle and that’s all the “why” questions. Why now? Why this? Why me? Why Matthew?

Then you move to a stage I call surrender. I wrote in my journal one day, I later tweeted it, and said, “I’d rather have all my questions unanswered and walk with God than not walk with God and have all my questions answered.” But there is a struggle. And finally, I just have to surrender, so I’m not going to know. I’m not going to know all these answers.

And then you move to what I call sanctification which is the change that takes place in you. And then service. And service means I think God wants us to use our hurt. And one of the reasons we decided to do this interview with you is maybe we could help some other people.

On Losing Matthew

Kay: 

I’ve said almost from the first moment that we learned that, “We’re devastated but we’re not destroyed.” And when people ask that question of, how are you, there’s no good answer.

And so, I finally just settled on, “I’m terrible but I’m OK.” In other words, we’re going to survive and someday, we’ll thrive again. It’s the worst thing that could ever happen.

Grief is Good

Rick:

I have cried every single day since Matthew died, but that’s actually a good thing. Grief is a good thing. It’s the way we get to the transitions of life. And I find, if I don’t cry, then I stuff it.

When I swallow my emotions, my stomach keeps score. If I don’t talk it out to my wife, to God, to friends, then I’m going to take it out on my body. And so, as guys, men, we don’t do grief very well. It’s not an easy thing for us because we don’t like the negative emotion.

But actually, grief is a good thing. Grief is the way we get to the transitions of life and that’s been helpful to me.

Choosing Joy

Rick:

We were sobbing. We were just sobbing. The day that I had feared might happen one day, since he’d been born, and the day that I prayed would never happen, happened. And I remember, as we stood in the driveway, just embracing each other, and sobbing. And Kay was wearing a necklace — you’re wearing it today — that had the words of a book she wrote a year ago called Choose Joy.

And she held it up and it said, “Choose Joy.” And in my mind I thought, “Are you kidding? How can I choose joy in this worst circumstance of my life?” But we — even in that moment, we were trying to say, “We’re not in control but we do have a greater hope and we do have a source of joy that isn’t based on our circumstances.” And it was a holy moment.

Mental Illness

Rick:

Piers, any other organ in my body can get broken and there’s no shame, no stigma to it. My liver stops working, my heart stops working, my lungs stop working. Well, I’ll just say, “Hey, I got diabetes. My pancreas or my adrenaline glands, or whatever,” but if my brain is broken, I’m supposed to feel bad about it. I’m supposed to feel shame. And so, a lot of people who should get help don’t.

Piers:

It’s hard to imagine. All that I’ve researched on this, with you and your family and Matthew, it’s hard to imagine anyone who suffers from this kind of illness, who’s had more love and support from their family, from a wide circle of friends, who’s had more treatment from the so called experts, more institutionalized moments, everything you could imagine, and yet still it wasn’t enough to save him.

Kay:

Well, if you look at the risk factors of what puts people at risk for suicide, Matthew had almost none of the risk factors. He had a great, as you say, a loving family, he had the access to care, he had friends. He had everything… The main risk factor for him was mental illness and he had that.

The Support of Saddleback Church

Rick:

I was overwhelmed by the love of our people. Kay and I had given 33 years to this church. And I felt like they all gave it back at the moment. It was just a very tender moment for me as a pastor. I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death with thousands of people. I have walked, I’ve stood at bed sides and seeing lots of people take their last breath. I have been there for those people for 33 years. And they were there for us when we needed them most.

Questioning God’s Plan, but Never Questioning God

Rick:

I never questioned my faith in God. I question God’s plan. There’s a big difference. I know God is a good God. Nothing can shake that from my life. I know God is a loving God. The question is — it’s like my children, my children have never doubted that they — that I love them but they sometimes doubt my wisdom and they don’t think I’ve made the right decision.

Not everything that happens in the world is God’s will. Everything that happens in the world God allows, he permits but because it couldn’t happen without his permission but we live in a world where there are free choices and if I chose to do wrong, I can’t blame God for that. So God isn’t to blame for my son’s death. My son took his life. It was his choice and if I chose to go out and get drunk and get in a car and I was in an accident, killed somebody, I can’t blame God for that.

Kay:

You know as Rick said it’s not — our faith is currently what’s got us — that foundation what’s gotten us through and it’s solid and strong but I have to tell you that, you know, before — I have something I want to show you. There’s this box that it was given to me a few years and I — It’s got the word — it’s a marble box and it’s got the word Hope on it and …

It’s my Hope box and I filled it with verses that gave me comfort, that gave me encouragement, verses that just kept my faith really strong before Matthew passed away and everyday I would sit and I would read these verses and that morning after we had been to his house the night before and I was pretty certain that he had taken his life. I got up that morning and I opened my Hope box and I went to these verses one more time and then after that I didn’t open it for a month. I couldn’t and then I started to think, so where do I go from here? What you’d do when your hope has been crashed and the only way I now how to rebuild it is to go back to my faith and to God’s word and this time, I started putting verses in that give me Hope for the future like there’s this amazing verse that it’s 1 Corinthians 15:43 it says, “Our bodies are buried in brokenness but they will be raised in glory, they are buried in weakness but they will be raised in strength.”

And so every time when I go to the cemetery, I quote that verse because, you know, what Matthew’s body was broken, that gun broke his body and he was buried in brokenness but he’s going to be raised in glory. He was buried in weakness. I think Matthew you were buried in weakness you will be raised in strength. So the struggle has been not in the living that God exists, not that God is evil because God is good.

But I have this other little tiny pot when there’s questions I can’t answer like did Matthew think of us before he pulled the trigger? Did he — was there any moment in which he suffered? Why after all those years of prayer and effort did he die? All these things that I have no answers for and I put them in this little pot, it’s my mystery pot so here’s my Hope box and my little mystery pot and so everyday I almost, I fill it with another question that I can’t answer. But what I know to be true is that God will answer those questions. They will be answered and my hope is very certain.

A Closing Word of Hope

Kay:

It’s so important that people know no matter how desperate, they’re despaired, there is hope. There is — and not to give up, not to give up.

Source: CNN Transcripts

I also wanted to share some of my favorite responses from friends on Twitter…

Please, feel free to offer your feedback on the interview in the comments below.


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Rick Warren About Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

  • Shane

    An hour interview and no gospel message :( Rom 10:14

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Shane, you’re absolutely wrong. I watched it twice and heard Jesus presented as our one and only hope very clearly. Furthermore, until you’ve lost a child to suicide and then been invited to talk about it on a national network, you really don’t have much right to tell someone what they should’ve said on that platform. You completely underestimate the power of the conversations started by the airing of this interview.

      • shane

        Brandon, I humbly am offering an observation. The title of this article is, “the most important interview I’ve ever done”. I watched the entire hour long interview. The conversations started were as follows..

        1. Burying a child is an agony unparallelled. 2. Gun control and stricter laws should be pursued. 3. More government programs and awareness for mental illness. 4. How this has impacted personal faith in God. 5. A belief held by two parents that believe their child is in heaven (what message does that send people contemplating suicide?).

        There was no mention of the gospel message of salvation through Christ alone by faith alone. The most important interview ever given should have a crystal clear message of the gospel should it not? People are dying and going to hell every day and with a platform in front of millions of viewers the message received was something other than the gospel message of salvation and forgiveness of sins by grace through faith. That is the message that saves. That is the only hope people have. Not gun control, not awareness of mental illness. No other message has the power to save in which all other messages pale in comparison.

        Arguing that people can’t discern righteously because they haven’t experienced it themselves is saying that feelings and experience are the basis for truth.

        As the apostle Paul boldly proclaims, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” This should be the driving thrust of any pastors calling.

        • Gracious

          I’m in China and I first heard about Rick Warren on Friday, I went on to read his wiki and discovered that he lost his son not long ago, my heart sank:( I grieved for Matthew without knowing him. I guess Rick and Kay were invited to talk about the loss of their son, and they did more than that, I believe Jesus is proud of them. My challenge to you Shane is this, get yourself on Piers Morgan and preach Salvation to the whole world, please make sure you are there for an entire hour and tell Piers Morgan not to ask you any questions instead just preach Salvation. There is a time and place for everything, and sometimes.
          Going by your theory Shane the book of Easter which doesn’t mention God directly would be irrelevant.

    • Sandie

      Shane, write again when you have lost a loved one close to you. Your lack of empathy is very disconcerting and I believe would grieve your Heavenly Father.

  • Rickey

    I would like to know of there is a way to get the whole interview as well.

  • Ann

    Pastor and Mrs. Warren:
    I am 28 and have suffered from depression and autism (autism was undiagnosed until age 15) for my entire life. I have experienced love from parents who love me the same way that you love Matthew. I like you six stages of grief the best, as I feel that I have experienced this since loosing my father to cancer in October 2012. I have gone through each and every stage you describe and am currently in college heading towards my “service” portion. I hope to be a grief counselor and help others who have had a loss of a family member. I pray for you two as I know the pain never leaves. I also know that God IS there! I appreciate you’re service over the years, but most importantly the service you are doing for your son, by advocating for a community that i’m a part of. A community that has struggles and a hard time finding answers or understanding struggles. It is people like you that DO turn lives around. I know the pain of loosing Matthew has been extremely intense and always will be, but in your service since loosing Matthew, Matthew will truly never be “lost”. His presence in your heart, you being honest with his story, Matthew (and you) will save many lives.

  • Andy

    I wasn’t able to watch the entire video but I did see the bits and pieces made available and read the transcript. What wasn’t lost on me was the simple point that your son’s suicide was real life. From the greatest to the least of us we all face things, hardships, trials, that have a way of bringing us to our knees. It’s just not that often that the details of those trials are let loose outside of our homes in honest conversation and that’s what I thought the interview was: Honest and truthful of how your son’s illness has impacted your lives and, somewhat sadly, we don’t get to see that very often. The trials and struggles we all face rarely make it out of our homes and whispered conversations. God knows mine most certainly are included as well. It’s to my shame that I want people to see only the bright side of me while I keep hidden so well the imperfect side of my life. It was a very moving interview. Thank you for doing it and speaking so frankly.

  • hennierens

    Thank you for sharing your grief and your lives with us. We can see it, though at times you may not feel it, that God’s strength has been made perfect in your weakness. Much love

  • Dave Page

    Rick & Kay – Carrie and I love you SO MUCH! So proud of both of you in the interview. You will always have 3 children and will see Matthew again! Life will be REALLY GOOD again down the road …

  • Alice Thomson

    Very moved by this CNN interview @RickWarren & @KayWarren1. Praying it will profoundly impact Mental Health in the US and the world. Thank you Rick and Kay for your bravery and compassion towards others in sharing the HOPE that is within you in the midst of your deepest pain. This is your purpose. May God continue to sustain you with his grace and love.

  • Debbie Kay

    I first want to say that I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Matthew. I have been praying for you and your family since the day I heard of his death. I only got to see clips from your CNN interview, but I was in tears as I watched. Many of the things you talked about and the conversations that you had with Matthew, I have also experienced with my 20 yr. old son who is Autistic and Bipolar and has multiple other disorders including OCD/Anxiety/Panic/Phobia disorders. My son has also dealt with depression since he was little and it is hard for people to understand what it is like to live with someone so young, whose brain is their own worse enemy.

    We have had little support through the years within the Christian community as people just didn’t know what to do or say when they would hear that my son at 11 years old begged to die and go to heaven, just so he wouldn’t hurt anymore. We were told things like, “He just needs to snap out of it” and “Doesn’t he know he’ll go to hell?” and “I don’t want my child around him because I don’t want my child to think that depression and suicidal thoughts are an acceptable way to deal with life.”…

    I am credentialed in Grief Recovery and I have a ministry called Hope For The Broken Hearted. I have a burden to reach the hurting and disabled and to educate the body of Christ on how to minister to them. Sadly,I have found there is no shortage of hurting people. I reach millions every week through my Facebook ministry alone, and a huge percentage of the people that write me and interact on my page deal with mental illness,or they have family members that do. Many have lost loved ones to suicide and many have written to me when they were suicidal and thank the Lord, so far, we have been able to intervene and get help for those that were ready to end their lives.. The people that write me are so appreciative to have a place where they are understood and where they can find spiritual encouragement and prayer support and feel like they are not alone or shunned…most have never found that kind of support in their own family’s, let alone at church. Many have written and told me they are told they lack faith and they just need to pray more..that depression is a sin. Many that are grieving and having trouble coping are told to “get over it” or “move on.” Churches and the body of Christ, should be the first and safest place, that families go to for support when they are dealing with disabilities and illness, but sadly for many people, it is not.

    My ministry was born out of my personal experiences with grief and loss and I know that God has been faithful to redeem and use what we have been through for His glory. I think this interview you did is just the beginning of opportunities you will have to open dialogue in places that up till now, would have considered mental illness a taboo subject. God has put you in a position to help remove the stigma of mental illness, especially in the Christian community…and we need someone who has a big presence and a large platform to shed light on this misunderstood issue. Many people wrote on my page after Matthew’s death, expressing shock to hear that something like this could happen in a family with such strong faith… so just in that factor alone, you are breaking down barriers and changing stereotypes that have to do with mental illness.

    Dr. Daniel Amen, who I know you are friends with, was the first doctor to dx my son’s bipolar disorder. I know he speaks about how the stigma associated with an illness of the brain is looked on so differently than an illness anywhere else in the body. People need to hear more of this…in the disability community we know and think that, but the world at large doesn’t. I think your approach of speaking in practical laymen’s terms about mental illness, being transparent, and also sharing all the spiritual aspects of grief and healing is going to help so many. From one parent to another, my heart aches and is full of compassion for you and Kay. As a parent and a minister who works with the grieving and mentally ill and disabled, I can’t thank you enough for your transparency and your willingness to let God use your pain and transform what the enemy meant for harm to something that will help others who suffered like Matthew. Sending a big hug to you and Kay and I will continue to pray and lift you up as you grieve and.heal.

    Blessings be upon you,
    Debbie Kay
    http://www.hopeforthebrokenhearted.com

  • http://CindyTunstall.com/ Cindy Tunstall

    Thank you for sharing your journey at such a painful time in your lives. The interview was very touching. I was so grateful for the hope you were able to communicate. I thought it was so amazing to hear you embrace the grieving process. It was truly beautiful to watch you love and support each other when your hearts are broken. I am confident that your precious family will impact great change in our nation regarding mental illness. I was so moved hearing you share your concern for poor families who do not have the resources to get the help they need. When you referred to the stigma attached to mental illness, I thought “it is already changing because of your courage to share your story with us!”. Thank you for the love and grace you continually express to a watching world. Continued prayers for your precious family!

  • Carlene Byron

    Stigma is the sociologist’s word for the kind of discrimination we practice against people we deem entirely unacceptable, who belong outside the boundaries of society. Hiding particular kinds of pain from the church because of stigma requires us and the person in pain to behave as if only part of their life belongs to the Body. I’m glad the Saddleback family has embraced the Rick and Kay Warren following Matthew’s death.I haven’t read anything that indicates the Saddleback family knew what would have allowed it to embrace Matthew and his struggles during his life. Transparency matters during the lifetime of the person with mental illness, too. The Body hurts when any member hurts, even when the pain is of a form that is widely stigmatized by people who live outside God’s Kingdom. I look forward to the day when all of God’s people have forgotten how to stigmatize all of the people that God has welcomed into his family.

  • http://www.keithferrin.com/ Keith Ferrin

    Encouraged and heartbroken. Is there any way to see the whole interview? Looks like CNN only has clips.

  • Stan Burdock

    Thank you for your continued transparency. You confirm my own faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. I look forward to sharing your reflections with members of my church who have experienced the death of a child to suicide. To who else can we go? He alone has the words of everlasting life?

  • Bill McCready

    Rick and Kay,

    After all that God has done through you over the years, I was in awe of what I saw last night as you gave us a glimpse of what God was doing IN you during this tragedy. As a pastor and as a beloved going though my own grief this past year, I was blessed to hear you both share the good, bad and ugly of your experience. Thank you for being real and raw, and once again setting a great example for pastors and leaders that fake is wrong and real is right, even in the difficult seasons.

    May God convert your pain into more and more ministry as you seek Him and share with others.

  • Chester Mitchell

    My wife and I wept during the entire interview. Thank you!

  • A Amin

    You opened my eyes to see what I have not seen before with a real discussion on mental illness and what you all have been going through! I heard loud and clear that your faith is not shaken! I am grateful for your openness as I have always struggled with this issue with other family members. I am sorry for your loss and I pray that the healing power of Jesus be with you all during this time!

  • Jim Church

    I thoroughly enjoyed/appreciated the interview. Your candor and sense of hope fully came through. I know that God will use this to reach/help countless people with the Lord’s message of hope.
    Thank You!

  • Tom VanAntwerp

    I’m proud to have Rick and Kay Warren speak on behalf of all of us what difference the hope of Jesus can truly make, even at moments as raw as this. Thank you!

  • Randy Sabella

    I hope you can sense how much the body of Christ mourns with you and prays for you!

  • Shane

    Our only hope is in Jesus Christ. Turning from sin and putting our faith in the only one that can save us. God’s power resides in that message. With the world watching, would have loved to hear that spoken last night.

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