By Alan Duke, CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) - The weekend's sermon at Saddleback Church was "Surviving Tough Times," a theme Pastor Rick Warren planned before his youngest son killed himself with a gun Friday.
Matthew Warren, 27, committed suicide "in a momentary wave of despair" at the end of a lifetime struggle "with mental illness, dark holes of depression and even suicidal thoughts," the pastor wrote to the staff of his Southern California megachurch.
"Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many," a statement from the church said. "Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled, and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life."
Friend Mike Constantz told CNN he had a "playful spirit."
"There are the days where he was just this bubbly, outgoing, effervescent, reaching out to people," Constantz said. "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."
Editor’s Note: Ed Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research, an evangelical research organization. He blogs at edstetzer.com and his most recent book is "Subversive Kingdom."
By Ed Stetzer, Special to CNN
(CNN) - The first time I dealt with mental illness in church was with a man named Jim. I was young and idealistic - a new pastor serving in upstate New York. Jim was a godsend to us. He wanted to help, and his energy was immeasurable. He'd visit with me, sing spontaneously, pray regularly and was always ready to help.
Until he was gone.
For days and sometimes weeks at a time, he would struggle with darkness and depression. During this time, he would withdraw from societal interaction and do practically nothing but read Psalms and pray for hours on end. I later learned that this behavior is symptomatic of what is often called bipolar disorder or, in years before, manic depression.
I prayed with Jim. We talked often about the need for him to take his medicine, but he kept asking God to fix him. Eventually, at his lowest point and filled with despair, he took his own life.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.