Wife of California megachurch pastor, mother of 5 dies by suicide

Paige (R) and Christopher Hilken (L) speak on relationships and parenting in a 2019 video for North Coast Church.
Paige (R) and Christopher Hilken (L) speak on relationships and parenting in a 2019 video for North Coast Church. | YouTube/North Coast Church

Nearly $500,000 has been raised after the wife of a California megachurch teaching pastor reportedly took her own life last weekend, leaving behind her husband and five kids under the age of 6.  

In a sermon message preached to the congregation this past Sunday, North Coast Church Pastor Larry Osborne told congregants about the death of 28-year-old Paige Hilken, the wife of one of North Coast's teaching pastors, Christopher Hilken. Christopher Hilken is also the leader of the church’s young adult program called “The Jordan.”

Osborne revealed that Hilken had taken her life after suffering from mental health troubles. 

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A staff member from the Vista-based North Coast Church, who preferred to remain anonymous, recently told The Christian Post that a letter was sent through email to all the church congregants to inform them about Hilken's death.

However, the source said, “there are still many details that remain a mystery about Paige’s death.”

“It’s a broken world, but the beauty is that Paige is in the presence of the Lord right now," Osborne said, adding that she is "no longer tormented by the demons of those thoughts."

“... The whole sense of fear and compulsiveness had just kind of taken her over, and we were praying for her and we were counseling for her. We were doing everything we can," he added. 

During the several months before Paige’s death, Osborne said that Rev. Hilken had taken a break from serving in his roles as a teaching pastor and as a leader of “The Jordan” to help his wife work through “the sudden onslaught of mental and emotional pain that she was battling.” Paige Hilken had also recently admitted herself into a clinic.

“She had just checked into one of the top places in the nation, one of the best clinics that deals with what she was going through," he added. "But sadly, it wasn’t enough."

Osborne encouraged congregants to reach out to the various pastors from the North Coast Church’s eight different locations if they need any support after Hilken's death. 

“We got stellar outstanding pastors that are part of your ministry and guiding your ministry, and we encourage you to turn to them with questions, with confusion, for prayer,” he said. “... But, I want to do the best I can on-screen to address these issues, talk to our heart [and] I also want to address the tough questions that are always lingering when we find ourselves in a situation like this.”

Paige Hilken and her husband met while attending Concordia University Irvine, where she was a pitcher on the school's softball team, according to a memorial page created by CUI. Paige Hilken was a member of the 2013 Eagles team that won the NAIA National Championship. 

”Paige was simply amazing. She was brilliant, driven, kind, generous and always rooting for others to succeed," CUI Athletic Director and head softball coach Crystal Rosenthal said in a statement. 

"She pushed herself in everything that she did and helped bring others up along the way. She was the kind of person that would spend her time figuring out ways to inspire and motivate others, and was passionate about her love for God and her love for her family."

A GoFundMe page has raised over $492,000 for the Hilken family in five days as of Friday afternoon. According to the fundraiser, Hilken received a medical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and other co-occurring mental health issues in April. 

"Tragically, Paige lost her battle with her mental health diagnoses; taking her life while in a world-class mental health facility in Arizona," the GoFundMe page explains

After a death by suicide, Pastor Osborne said in his sermon that Christians often find themselves asking questions, such as “How can this be?” “How can God allow that?” “How can a Christian leader go through this?” and “What did they do to bring it upon themselves?”

To clarify these questions, Osborne told viewers that he believes with instances such as death by suicide that the scriptures point to the idea that “Christians live in a fallen world and fallen things happen to them.”

“Being a Christian doesn’t make us immune from the brokenness of this world. ... It doesn’t make us immune from the brokenness and the backwash of being caught in someone else’s sin, and it doesn’t make us immune from our own sin or our own brokenness," he said. "It’s part of this world. [Being a Christian] does make us immune from the eternal consequences of our sins. [B]ut in this period of time, not so much."

“... That’s why Jesus had to die for our sins, and that’s why each and every one of us, eventually is going to die," he continued. "None of us were born a pure and holy slate before the Lord, and none of us can ever create ourselves to that particular point in this life."

Osborne said mental and emotional brokenness is a part of “the fallen world.” He said people find mental illness to be a taboo subject because “it is something that cannot be seen.”

People, he said, are more likely to want to help someone when they see visual evidence of an injury, such as someone with a broken arm.

“When they are in a cast, we come along and try to help," he said. "When there’s something broken in our brains and broken in the way we are processing things and broken in our chemical imbalances … we can’t see it. So what we tend to do is go, ‘Just fix it.'"

The pastor said that until mental health issues impact people personally, "we all tend to think we’re immune."

“We don’t live in this cliche world where everything is right," he explained. "We live in a real fallen world, and things happen to us. People do stuff to us, and we internally face the ravages of sin, not our sin, but the sin of a fallen world.”

Osborne told the congregation that he had faced the effects of “living in a fallen world” firsthand because he suffered from anxiety attacks. 

He said the anxiety attacks would happen due to a fear that he might faint on stage while preaching at North Coast Church. He recalled how before he preached, he would have pastors and other members of the church staff “lay hands on him and pray for him” in the hope that his anxiety attacks would stop occurring.

However, he said, during that time, no matter who prayed for him or how hard he prayed, he continued to have anxiety attacks. Osborne said he began to wonder what was wrong with his faith and why he “couldn’t just suck it up and stand on the stage.” 

Eventually, Osborne said he had to take a drug to alleviate his panic attacks and was able to get out of his “vicious cycle of overthinking.” 

“Those of you who have anxiety attacks, it’s just like a heart attack ... that grip … that sweat everywhere, out of the blue, unable to think very clearly,”  Osborne said while holding his heart.

“[The anxiety attacks] was the brokenness in me, not due to failure [or] due to sin, but it was a chemical imbalance. I’m here as one of your pastors today to tell you I couldn't pray my way out, I couldn’t talk my way out, I couldn’t get counseling to get a way out because something was broken because I’m a sinner living in a sinful world and I suffer brokenness not even because of my own sin, but because I’m a child of Adam and Eve like every one of us is.”

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