Last week I found out that one of our former youth pastors, DB Antrim, died suddenly. My heart immediately felt pierced by pain for him, his wife and children. I remember DB as a fun loving and effective youth minister and I wondered what happened to this young man with a wonderful wife and two young sons. It was about 12 hours later that I learned that he had tragically taken his own life. My pain turned into a tidal wave of emotions: anguish, anger, sadness, sorrow, confusion, bewilderment and frustration! I began thinking about his family and then started thinking about all the youth he had touched over the years and what they were going through.
Suicide is insidious! It is a twisted trap that the enemy of our souls uses to devour us. Suicide needs to be confronted as a sinister plot of the father of lies.
How do we deal with this? What do we say to families, friends and all those touched by his ministry? I was very impressed with how DB’s pastor, Brandon Barker, handled this painful situation, as I listened to his message on May 4th Dealing with Loss. Here were a few things I took away:
1) He dealt with it head on. Pastor Barker told how he was the person who actually found DB in his car and found the five individually sealed letters that DB left behind, one of which was for him. In a courageous moment during the message he actually read DB’s letter that was left for him.
2) He shared his pain. He authentically shared his horror, the depth of his anguish, the realty of his anger, and his own questions around this tragedy. "On Thursday night at 5:30 in the evening, DB our friend, our family pastor, lay dead in front of my eyes, his life taken by his own hands. Since then my life has been a whirlwind. His family's life has been a whirlwind. The church has been in a whirlwind. And in the midst of this is a raging sea of emotions," he revealed. "As I saw him, the first feeling that I had was anguish. I was completely destroyed. Sadness is not even close to the word that described how I felt. … [It] was as if I was watching myself…what in the world is going on? How could this happen?"
3) He gave people permission to express their pain to God. Through honestly working out his pain in front of the congregation he gave them permission to feel their pain and gave them a model for expressing their pain before God.
4) He preached truth. He spoke the truth about sin. He spoke the truth about the lies of the enemy. A powerful moment in the message was after he read DB’s letter when he said, “This sounds sentimental, but it is an outright lie!” He believed Satan’s lies in a moment of weakness, that the life of his family and our church will be better without him. This was a diabolical lie! We are not better without him, his boys are not better without him, his wife is not better without him. This was so far from the truth and was nothing but a lie he believed.
5) He offered hope through the gospel. He preached sin, grace, repentance, forgiveness and the hope of eternal life. He read a scripture that was very meaningful to him during this time. “…because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit usfrom on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-19)
6) He called the church to purity. He spoke directly to the secret sins of the church and in the life of all believers. He called them to confess their sins to one another (James 5:16).
7) He called the church to a new level of generosity and service for the family. “We are not just going to be here for the next thirty days, but for as long as they need us and for long as it takes.” If you would like to assist the family through a generous gift we would strongly encourage it. Give Here
This young pastor pushed through his own pain and turned a tragic loss into a defining moment for his church and God’s kingdom work.
This caused me to ask questions about how we can help pastors and church leaders deal with this subject of suicide. So here are some resources to help pastors and church leaders:
- Pastoral Issues Surrounding Suicide
- Suicide Prevention and Grieving Guide
- How churches can help prevent pastor suicide
Audio Resources: Three Messages Concerning the Pastor and Spiritual Warfare:
- Spiritual Warfare: We Are in a Battle! – John Jenkins
- Spiritual Warfare: Three Ways to Deal with the Accuser. – Gary Rohrmayer
- Spiritual Warfare: Overcoming Temptation – Jeff Forester