Friends rallied to the side of Rick Warren on Sunday, a day after the famed pastor’s 27-year-old son committed suicide.
“There were the days where he was just bubbly, outgoing, effervescent, reaching out to people,” Mike Constantz, a close friend of the Warrens, told CNN of Matthew Warren. “And there were the days where he just didn’t want to be around people. Just the pain, the excruciating pain was just too much.”
The younger Warren had suffered from emotional problems, his father said in a statement on the death.
Services at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church were somber Sunday.
Tom Holladay, a teaching pastor at the mega-church in Lake Forest, led a prayer for the family at the 9 a.m. service, according to the Associated Press. Warren did not attend the service.
Holladay said the huge church shared the loss “as a church family.”
On Saturday, Warren’s emotional message to his congregation paid tribute to his son, who he said died after battling mental illness all of his life.
“Today after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his own life,” Warren said.
The death at the younger Warren’s home on Pradera Drive in Mission Viejo was reported to Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials at about 5:25 p.m. Friday, said Supervising Deputy Coroner Dan Aikin.
Aikin said he could not confirm an earlier report by coroner’s officials to City News Service that Warren, 27, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He said a cause of death could not be confirmed until after an autopsy is completed Tuesday.
In his statement to his congregation, Rick Warren talked about how “only those closest knew that [Matthew] struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, even suicidal thoughts.”
He described his son as a “kind, gentle and compassionate man” with a “brilliant intellect” and who was sensitive to the needs of others.
“Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of his 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.”
Among those offering condolences was Harvest Christian Fellowship leader Greg Laurie, who tweeted followers to join him in a prayer for Warren and his wife.
Laurie, whose adult son Christopher was killed in a 2008 car crash, noted on his blog that he had experienced similar pain. “At times like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word,” he wrote.
The Christian Post reported that Laurie was joined by a host of other religious leaders, including Will Graham, the grandson of Rev. Billy Graham.
The elder Warren is a world-famous evangelist and the bestselling author of “The Purpose-Driven Life.” He delivered the invocation at President Obama‘s inauguration in 2008.