9:00AM EDT 4/9/2013 JOHN JESSUP/CBN
Christians across America are praying for Pastor Rick Warren and his family Sunday as they grieve the loss of his youngest son, Matthew, who committed suicide.
Warren, who notified members of Saddleback Church of the devastating news in a memo Saturday, gave thanks for outpouring of support.
“Kay and I are overwhelmed by your love, prayers, and kind words. You are all encouraging our broken hearts,” he tweeted to his nearly 1 million followers.
Matthew Warren, 27, battled with mental illness from birth. He took his life Friday evening after spending time with his parents hours earlier.
“In spite of America’s best doctors, med, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided,” Pastor Warren wrote. “After a fun evening with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”
Warren described his son as an “incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man.”
“[Matthew] had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room,” Warren said in the statement. “He’d then make a beeline to that person to engage and encourage them.”
Expressions of love and support immediately sprang up from social media. On Twitter, people offered their prayers.
“Weeping and mourning with my friend @RickWarren and @KayWarren1 at the tragic loss of their son,” wrote Christian music artist Israel Houghton. “At a loss for words. Just pray.”
Craig Groeschel, Pastor of LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma City also tweeted: “Love and prayers to @RickWarren and family. Our church is praying for u all.”
On Facebook, the messages were similar and came in from around the world.
“Our prayers from Puerto Rico. PEACE!” wrote a Puerto Rican church called Catedral de la Ciudad.
Warren is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, which averages more than 20,000 people during its weekly services. He’s best known for his book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” which has sold 32 million copies and made him a household name for many Christians.
The megachurch pastor’s influence reaches beyond the church walls. He and his wife, Kay, also work to promote partnerships between the faith community and the public and private sectors to treat, support, and prevent HIV and AIDS globally.
Warren gave the invocation at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration after hosting then Sen. Obama and Sen. John McCain at a church-sponsored presidential forum in 2008.
According to the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, Warren already wasn’t scheduled to preach this weekend because he was recovering from pneumonia.
In his email to the church, Warren said Matthew also prayer for healing along with his medical treatment.
Warren wrote, “Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said, ‘Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?’ but he kept going for another decade.”
Matthew’s death coincides with the recent broadcasting of an audio series Pastor Warren delivered earlier in the week in his “Daily Hope with Rick Warren” radio program. The title was “When You Feel Like Giving Up” from the Invisible War series, broadcast April 1-3.
There has been no word yet on a memorial service.