Like many believers across the world, I have grieved this week for Rick and Kay Warren. The loss of their son, Matthew, is beyond sad. I do not really know the Warrens except through their public ministry but still grieve for them.
In the midst of a wave of emotion I am struck with the reality that part of that grief is a familiar fear. Living with a child with bipolar disorder raises a specter of emotions most parents never even consider. What parent of a typical child has to consider the possibility of their child taking his own life? It is unimaginable, unspeakable. But when you live with bipolar disorder, major depression, or borderline personality disorder, it is a very real fear. It is even a reasonable fear. Sadly, it is a real possibility.
I know living with anxiety and fear is not God’s plan. Frankly, most of the things we worry about never happen. I know He wants me to trust Him with the future. I also know that my husband and I won’t always be there with Jack so trusting God’s abundant care and love for him is critical. We may be able to protect him while he is in our home but the day will come when he will no longer live with us. And that day is approaching quickly.
I asked our family counselor years ago how to deal with this. He reminded me of the scene in the movie, Apollo 13. You remember this scene? Here is what our counselor said should be our theme: “Not on my watch.” We can take measures to protect him today. We can take steps to prepare him for the day he will feel overwrought and hopeless when we are not there. We can seek to connect him to a God who loved Jack with His very life.
I know three pastors’ families who have lost a child to their mental illness. The Warrens are the latest family to grieve this unimaginable loss. I am confident each of these families did all we have tried to do to protect their children. It is this reality that raises the specter of fear. A real fear. A possible fear.
But ultimately, I have come to the place of accepting that I cannot control this any more than I can control our son’s journey in other ways. There will likely come a day when he is overwhelmed with his life and considers ending it all. It will happen no matter what we have done to prepare him. Ultimately I cannot control these things.
How can we prepare him for that day? We walk and talk with him about the love of the Father. We teach him about the great leaders of old, their suffering, and how God used them. We remind him that God created him for a purpose.
And what about our hearts? How do we prepare our hearts?
We don’t. I am sure these beloved pastors’ families who have lost children to their illnesses would tell us there is no preparation for that day. The only preparation is to walk with God TODAY. He is here with us. He never leaves or forsakes us. And if we ever face that awful day He will be there also. He will be there with his nail-pierced hands to embrace us. Just as I am sure He is embracing the hearts of the Warren family now.
This is all I know. And for today, it is all I need.