Roy Exum: Rick Warren’s Quiet Return

Monday, July 29, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There was nothing triumphant, glorious, or earth-shattering about it when Rick Warren returned to his office Saturday night. Three huge and bulging auxiliary tents and a swarm of traffic control officers had to be added to weekend services at the Saddleback Church in California but all that the overflow crowd saw, along with millions of other followers who have been silently watching from all around the world, was a fellow sufferer finally ready to forge on.

Rick Warren is one of the most acclaimed evangelists of our day. His guidebook, “A Purpose-Driven Life,” has sold many millions, this in dozens of languages, and he has counseled kings, presidents, and countless Christian believers the world over. So why did his Lord and Savior allow the unthinkable to occur? Five days after Easter, Warren’s son Matthew fell prey to suicide at age 27 and it is as though the world is now asking the famed Rick Warren “why?”

“For 27 years I prayed every day of my life for God to heal my son’s mental illness. It was the number one prayer of my life. It just didn’t make sense that this prayer wasn’t being answered,” the pastor said, especially after Rick and his wife Kay have given their every waking minute to glorifying their Jesus.

The Warrens' grieving – more like four months in life’s “wilderness” – has been gut-wrenching. “There were some parts of Scripture I was unable to read,” he admitted and there were others that touched him profoundly. From Isaiah, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown” and from the apostle Paul: “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in our troubles so we can comfort others.”

To the non-believer it makes little sense that Warren would again take up the cross but to the believer it makes all the sense in the world. “I believe God wants to take your greatest loss and turn it into your greatest life message,” he said and acknowledging a great host of friends that have comforted his family in the past gruesome months, he declared, “I am in this family of spiritual redwoods – Satan picked the wrong team to pick on.”

During the often-emotional service, Warren will tackle mental illness in a head-on way. His long-term goal is to erase any stigma of mental illness from the church. “Your illness is not your identity, your chemistry is not your character. If any other organ of your body breaks down there's no stigma," said Warren. "But if your brain doesn't work, why are you ashamed of that?" We want families to know, ‘We are here for you, we are in this together. There is hope for the future. There is hope for today.’”

The pastor said that for the next six weeks he will preach a series entitled, “How To Get Through What You Are Going Through” and each week will be based on the six stages of grief: shock, sorrow, struggle, surrender, sanctification, and service. A much-larger platform – far more encompassing --will be based on the same six stages.

The whole idea is as old and as timeless as the Bible itself, Warren explaining that God is with His people in times of trouble and that God, indeed, will one day raise the dead. Heaven is still coming, he promised, quoting from Revelations, “Then God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will pass away.”

Warren’s six messages on grief will be streamed free from the Saddleback Church website but attending this week’s services were Roma Downey and Mark Burnett who just produced the hit documentary, “The Bible,” lending to the Warrens’ belief God will use Matthew’s death for a purpose, for the good.

As Warren wrote in his book, “Trusting God completely means having faith He knows what is best for your life. You expect Him to keep His promises, help you with your problems, and do the impossible when necessary.”

Rick Warren has no doubt God knows what is best for his life. This weekend only confirmed it.

Kudos To Sheriff Watson

Thank you for doing what you promised, Sheriff Watson.  And a special thank you to all those that work for you and have "lowered the boom" on crime here in Bradley County. You are the talk of the town; everywhere I went today I could hear your name spoken in very positive ways and it made me proud that I voted.     It's refreshing to have someone in office ... (click for more)

Sacrifice Saturday

I am personally inviting all to Sacrifice Saturday, Nov. 1,  at the 100 block of W. 38th Street.   I know we are all very busy. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, not only was he willing, but his son was willing to be sacrificed. What are we willing to sacrifice today in order for our sons and daughters to live?   We are losing them ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex Fetches $15 Million

Walnut Commons, the first downtown apartment complex built in many years, sold for $15 million, one of the developers said. John Clark said the initial estimate on the project was $11 million and it wound up costing around $12 million to build. "We're very pleased with the sale," he said. Mr. Clark, along with partners David Hudson and Bob McKenzie, are selling their stock ... (click for more)

Hamilton County Principal Ronald Hughes Named Tennessee's 2014-15 Principal Of The Year

A Hamilton County elementary school principal and an Anderson County supervisor have earned top honors for their work in Tennessee education. Ronald Hughes, principal of Apison Elementary School in Chattanooga, was named Tennessee’s 2014-15 Principal of the Year. He has served as principal at Apison Elementary for the past six years, and spent three decades working in Tennessee ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Soccer Advance to A-AA State Semis

MURFREESBORO - Juniors Sofia Olenchek and Emma Higgins scored two goals each to lead Notre Dame to a 4-0 victory against No.14 Spring Hill here Wednesday night in a TSSAA A-AA State Girls Quarterfinals at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex. The win advances unranked Notre Dame (11-5-4) to the state semis against Jackson Christian Thursday at 5 p.m. EDT. No.6 Jackson Christian ... (click for more)

CCS Soccer Wins 1-0; Advances to State Semis

MURFREESBORO - Freshman striker Olivia Hoffman was in the right place at the right time as her goal in the 26th minute proved to be the match winner as No.25 Chattanooga Christian defeated No. 8 Hume Fogg, 1-0, here Wednesday in a TSSAA A-AA State Girls Soccer Quarterfinal at Richard Siegel Soccer Complex. "The ball bounced off a couple of players and I was able to put it in ... (click for more)