MISSION VIEJO, Calif. Matthew Warren, the 27-year-old son of Rick and Kay Warren, committed suicide Friday night after struggling with mental illness throughout his life.
The news broke after the Saddleback Church pastor and best-selling author of "The Purpose-Driven Life" sent an email prayer request to his congregation.
"Over the past 33 years we've been together through every kind of crisis," wrote Warren. "Kay and I've been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us."
Warren wrote that Matthew suffered from mental illness and depression since birth.
"Only those closest knew that (Matthew) struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts," wrote Warren. "In spite of America's best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided."
Harvest Crusade evangelist Greg Laurie expressed his own pain over Warren's loss.
"I too have had a son die, so I have a sense of the pain Rick and Kay are facing," Laurie wrote on his personal blog. "But their circumstances are different and my heart goes out to them."
Laurie's son Christopher died in a car crash in 2008 at the age of 33.
Warren wrote "The Purpose-Driven Life" more than a decade ago. More than 30 million copies were sold in the first five years.
More than 20,000 people attend Saddleback Church in South Orange County.
The text of Rick Warren's email to his congregation:
To my dear staff,
Over the past 33 years we've been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I've been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us.
No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.
You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He'd then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.
But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America's best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.
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.
Thank you for your love and prayers. We love you back.