Billy Graham’s Grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, Discusses His Near Suicide and Whether He’s Planning a Comeback

Image courtesy of Tullian Tchividjian
Image courtesy of Tullian Tchividjian

Billy Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, revealed this week that he was severely depressed and almost killed himself after extramarital affairs cost him his ministry and marriage. In 2015, after a spate of bestselling books and being tapped to lead Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida, it was revealed that Tchividjian had an extramarital affair. He resigned from his church and filed for divorce soon after. In March of 2016, he admitted to a second affair and a second church where Tchividjian was serving at the time fired him. He has been largely silent since then.

But in an article posted at Expastors.com this week, the former pastor said he almost committed suicide during this period of despair. It seemed to me that there was more to this story that might illuminate the situation and perhaps help others who have experienced similar difficulties. So I decided to speak with Tullian about the details of that tumultuous period.

RNS: In the midst of your despair, you said you researched the best way to kill yourself. Can you talk about that and what you concluded?

TT: The hurt I had caused felt too much to bear. The level of shame and guilt and regret was so deep, I literally did not want to live any longer. I had betrayed and disappointed and caused suffering to those who depended on me to provide the opposite. The thought of killing myself was relieving to me. I actually found momentary peace in the idea that I would soon be dead.

Not owning a gun, I didn’t know how I would do it so I began looking up the best ways to kill myself. After a two hour search, I immediately began to write a suicide note. I was eerily calm as I wrote it. After I finished writing it I read it over three times. On the third time, I burst into tears and fell on the ground. It was about 3 am. I cried out to God like I never have before. I don’t even remember what I said but I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of peace consume me. I saw the faces of my three kids and my daughter in law and my grandson. I fell asleep on the floor for about four hours.

When I woke up, I felt very different. I knew God was with me and that he had not abandoned me and that, once again, he had saved my life. It was enough to get me through the next day. Which turned into the next week. Which turned into the next month. I almost deleted that note a couple months ago but decided to keep it as a reminder of that dark and desperate moment and the way God met me at rock bottom.

RNS: Did you receive any ugly responses from people in the church or from church leaders?

TT: If I dwell on that, it’s unhealthy for me. I’ve done enough rationalizing and justifying over the last two years to last a lifetime, and it’s only taken me to deeper places of darkness. As you can imagine, I’ve heard it all: accusations, attacks, assumptions.

The hardest thing has been those who I’ve never met and who don’t me at all or those who I haven’t had any interaction with over the last seven months to a year questioning whether or not I’m repentant. God and God alone knows the heart and whether I am truly repentant. So I have to listen to him and to those closest to me to hear the truth.

That being said, I’ve also had to admit that my sin hurt a lot of people. I lied to people, betrayed people, deceived people. My actions were devastatingly hurtful, and hurt people say and do hurtful things. Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for those who spent all their time highlighting the sins of others while never confessing their own. I spent too much time identifying the sins of others than I did my own sin, and it lead to slavery. My critics are no better than me and I am no better than them. The ground is level at the foot of the cross: we are all a lot worse than we think we are but God’s grace is much greater than anything we could ever ask for or imagine.

Can you imagine how differently we would treat each other if all our deepest secrets and sins were made public? Our thoughts and motivations and browser histories and text messages and phone records and conversations? Knowing how much you need grace makes you more gracious. That’s what I’m trying to focus on these days. If I allow myself to be bothered more by other people’s sin than I am my own sin, it proves my unbelief.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service