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Rick Warren Shares Grief, Tells Pastors to 'Use Suffering to Witness to World'

( [email protected] ) Jun 13, 2014 01:05 PM EDT

Pastor Rick Warren
Rick Warren, speaking at the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference on Monday at the Baltimore Convention Center, shared his son's Matthews story and encouraged pastors to seek God midst pain (AP)

Pastor Rick Warren remembered his deceased son, Matthew, at the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this week, saying the young man used his suffering to spread the gospel to others.

Warren told the large group of pastors and religious leaders at the conference titled "Show Us Your Glory" that his son, who committed suicide last year, left behind a legacy of kindness, encouragement, and compassion.

The Saddleback pastor said that after Matthew's death, he "received 30-35 thousand letters of condolences from people around the world."

"...and it wasn't the rock stars, the prime ministers or the presidents' cards and letters that meant the most to me. The letters that meant the most to me were letters from people that Matthew had led to Christ, and they would say 'I'm going to be in heaven because of your son."

Those letters made Warren realize that, "In God's garden of grace, even broken trees bear fruit."

The "Purpose Driven Life" pastor revealed that from the time he was a young boy, Matthew struggled with depression and mental illness and often questioned why God wouldn't heal him.  

"I remember at seventeen - about ten years ago - Matthew came to me. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, 'Dad, it's real obvious I'm not going to get any better. It's real obvious that God has chosen not to heal me,'" Rick Warren recalled.

Despite his sickness, Matthew continually spread the gospel and encouraged others who were hurting.

"Because of his pain, Matthew had an amazing sensitivity to people. He could walk into a room filled with a hundred people and he would instantly know who was in the most pain and he would make a beeline for that person and spend the rest of the evening talking to that person, encouraging them," said Warren.

Sadly, Matthew Warren was 27 when he took his own life last April. Devastated, the Saddleback Church pastor took a four-month sabbatical from preaching, taking time to find healing and comfort in the Lord.

Warren told pastors who seek to see the glory of God that they could only do so through suffering.

"If you want the blessing of God on your life, if you want the power of God on your words, if want the anointing of God on your ministry, you must be willing to suffer," he stated.

Like Matthew, Warren encouraged pastors who struggle with mental illness to use their experiences to "witness to the world."

Warren concluded his speech by falling to his knees, praying for the hundreds of pastors in the audience. "As I was flying out here, the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear the people and the pastors who are in pain at this conference need your prayers more than they need your sermon," he said.