Symbolic details too painful for words: Shocking death of Jarrid Wilson stunned us all

Did you need more evidence that we live (and strive to do good journalism) in a broken world?

Did you need a reminder that any journalist who works on the religion-news beat needs to dig into a dictionary and learn the meaning of this theological term — “theodicy.”

The death of the Rev. Jarrid Wilson unfolded on social media, with shock waves ripping through the digital ties that bind (including in newsrooms). He had worked to bring comfort to those suffering with mental-health issues — while being candid about his own life. Wilson reminded those struggling with suicidal thoughts that they were not alone and that God knew their pain.

This gifted preacher — married, with two young children — knew that and believed it. But something snapped, anyway.

Here’s the top of the team-written Religion News Service report about this tragedy which, hopefully, will shape the mainstream coverage of that will follow.

(RNS) — Jarrid Wilson, a California church leader, author and mental health advocate, died by suicide Monday evening (Sept. 9) at age 30.

Wilson, known as a passionate preacher, most recently was an associate pastor at megachurch Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. A co-founder of the mental health nonprofit Anthem of Hope, Wilson was open about his own depression, often posting on his social media accounts about his battles with the mental illness.

“At a time like this, there are just no words,” said Harvest Senior Pastor Greg Laurie in a statement.

But there were words with which to wrestle — from Wilson, on the day he took his own life.

What journalist would imagine details more symbolic than these?

There was more, in this online farewell.

On Instagram, Julianne Wilson posted a tribute to her husband and vowed to carry on their work with Anthem of Hope.

Once again, what journalist could dare to dig this deep in a post suicide-interview with one left behind? RNS let the words speak for themselves:

“No more pain, my jerry, no more struggle. You are made complete and you are finally free,” she wrote in the caption. “Suicide doesn’t get the last word. I won’t let it. You always said “Hope Gets the last word. Jesus does,” she added.

One more detail: This drama unfolded on the eve of Suicide Awareness Day — Sept. 10.

Again, RNS let stunning quotations tell the story. Read this carefully.

Wilson shared openly about his own mental health challenges in his most recent book, “Love Is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World,” and blog posts. He blogged earlier this summer that he had dealt with “severe depression throughout most of my life and contemplated suicide on multiple occasions.”

On social media, he regularly encouraged others dealing with similar challenges with messages like, “I’m a Christian who also struggles with depression. This exists, and it’s okay to admit it.” …

In his summer blog post, Wilson challenged the idea some Christians have that those who die by suicide are condemned to hell.

Christians wouldn’t tell someone with a physical illness like cancer they are going to hell because of their diagnosis, he noted. Neither should they assume it of people with mental illnesses, which can “lead many people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do if they didn’t struggle.”

That’s all for now. Please send us URLs — good and bad — as the mainstream coverage unfolds. This tragedy should inspire deeper coverage on a life-and-death subject on the religion beat and beyond.

FIRST IMAGE: From Instagram account of Juli Wilson. With permission from the Wilson family, friends have started a GoFundMe account to help with immediate financial support.

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