Tullian Tchividjian used to be a happily married man, noted author, traveling speaker and successful pastor of a large church that had a school and seminary. But it all came crashing down in 2015, and he admits he eventually became suicidal. Even this grandson of evangelist Billy Graham failed tests that humans face in this broken world, but he now shares bountiful examples of how God met him in his darkest places.
"Life went from feeling like a fairy tale to feeling like a violent tragedy," said Tchividjian, who added he faced thousands of losses, including close friendships, financial stability, purpose, confidence in God's goodness, hope, joy, opportunity and life as he knew it.
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian is the former senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A graduate of Columbia International University, where he earned a degree in philosophy, and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, where he earned his Master of Divinity, he also authored seven books. During his time at Coral Ridge, Tchividjian founded LIBERATE-a ministry that sought to "connect God's inexhaustible grace to an exhausted world" through conferences, a website, a daily radio program and a weekly TV broadcast.
"But as shocking and painful as all these losses were, my instinctive response shocked me even more: the rage, the blame-shifting, the thirst for revenge, the bitter arrogance, the self-justified resentment, the dark self-righteousness, the control-hungry manipulation, the deluded rationalization, the deep selfishness, the perverted sense of entitlement," he said.
"Maybe these disgusting things which flowed from my depths with such natural ease shouldn't have shocked me. After all, I was well known for talking about my own messed-upness, talking openly about my sin and selfishness, my faults and fears, my pride and pains."
Tchividjian said he never pretended to have it all together.
"In fact, one of the reasons people listened to my sermons and read my books and came out to hear me speak when I was traveling is because I was honest about my brokenness and the amazing grace of God that covers us at our worst. I was known for saying that God loves bad people because bad people are all that there are. So I knew I was bad. I just didn't know I was THAT bad."
Tchividjian said the truth is that people are very good lawyers when it comes to their own mistakes, but very good judges when it comes to the mistakes of others.
The former celebrity said one of my counselors told him circumstances don't create the condition of the heart. Rather, circumstances reveal the condition of the heart.
"And what was revealed to me about my heart in the fiery hotness of dire circumstances was scary and destructive. This disgusting truth about myself (and the desperate aloneness that I felt because of it) made me want to commit suicide.
In his darkest moment, after researching for two hours the best way to kill himself, he wrote the following: "Words cannot express the pain I feel for the hurt I've caused. It has become too much to bear. Based on what I've done and the pain I've caused, I have concluded that it is safer for all those I love that I just disappear. Life without hope is death. At the end, I tried. I really, really tried. God knows that my apologies and my expressions of love were real. So real. But what does that matter when the people you want so bad to believe you, don't? I understand why they didn't. Given my recent track record, why would they? So when it became clear that those I love most wanted nothing to do with me, the choice I needed to make became clear. Initially, I got angry and defensive when I was told that I'm a monster, evil, disgustingly dangerous, etc. But it has sunk in and I finally believe it. I am all those things. Lord have mercy. One final word to the church: when people screw up bad, try to help them. Do your best to sacrifice anything and everything to help them. More than likely, they screwed up bad because they need help. Don't turn your back on them. Pursue them. Something isn't right with them and they need help. Even if they have hurt you bad, do everything you can to help them. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
He said his confidence was severely misplaced: Confidence in status, reputation, power and position, the way he spoke, the praise he received, financial security and success.
"In other words, confidence in things that were smaller than God and his grace - confidence in things that were unstable and fleeting and easily taken away. Because I had existentially located my significance in things smaller than God, my loss did not simply usher in grief and pain and shame and regret. It ushered in a severe identity crisis," he said.
"Without these things and people that I had come to depend on to make me feel like I mattered, I no longer knew who I was. I felt dead. Therefore, I might as well be dead."
Tchividjian said the journey God has taken him on over the last two years has been one of complete deconstruction. "It has felt like my skin being painfully ripped from my bones. Just when I think I can't take anymore, God seems to dig deeper. As painful as it has been, however, it has also been very liberating."
Death before resurrection always has been, and will always be God's mode of operation, he said. "Dark desperation always precedes deep deliverance. That is my hope. That is my only lifeline."
He said the good news is that who you really are has nothing to do with you. 'Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ's accomplishment, not yours; his strength, not yours; his performance, not yours; his victory, not yours. The gospel doesn't just free you from what other people think about you; it frees you from what you think about yourself."