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.

Please, No Short Term Vacation Rentals In My Neighborhood

Approval of the short term vacation rental item on the City Council agenda for Tuesday  will be the next step toward commercializing our residential properties and communities to benefit those more interested in making money than preserving an old, well-established, rich community of like-minded families.    Anything requiring a business license is ... (click for more)

Why I Am Voting For Esther Helton

I retired from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, with 37 years of state service in 2015. I graduated from East Ridge High School in 1969 and raised my son in this community. I am proud to be from East Ridge. Several months ago, I decided to learn more about East Ridge leadership by attending the City Council meetings. At the meetings, I met ... (click for more)

Fire Displaces Family Of 7; Blaze Ruled Accidental

No injuries were reported in connection with a house fire on Saturday afternoon that displaced a family of seven. The Chattanooga Fire Department received the alarm at 4:11 p.m. and responded to 3308 Dodson Ave. with five fire companies. Captain Wadie Suttles with Engine 4 said heavy fire was showing when the first firefighters arrived on the scene. As additional firefighters ... (click for more)

Clarence Ross, Leshawn Witherow Shot On Walden Avenue Friday Afternoon

Chattanooga Police are investigating a shooting that happened early Friday afternoon at the 6300 block of Walden Avenue.  Clarence Ross, 41, And Leshawn Witherow, 40, suffered non-life threatening injuries.  Hamilton County EMS transported both victims to a local hospital for treatment.  There is no suspect information at this time.  Investigators with ... (click for more)

UTC Women Fall To UNCG 1-0 To End Regular Season

 The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s soccer team fell 1-0 at UNCG Sunday afternoon to close out the regular season. The Mocs end the year at 6-10-2 overall and 4-4-1 in the Southern Conference and tie the Spartans (7-10-2, 4-4-1 SoCon) for fifth in the standings.   “It was another tough result,” Chattanooga head coach Gavin McKinney said. “We did, however, ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Draws Top Ranked Greeneville, CCS Opens With Madison Magnet

For the second year in a row, Notre Dame drew the top ranked Greeneville in the opening round of the TSSAA Class A/AA state tournament.  Notre Dame is scheduled to play Greeneville on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Murfreesboro. CCS will play Madison Magnet in the first round. CCS and Greeneville played in the state championship game last year with Greeneville winning 4-1.  ... (click for more)