For hours I’ve stared upon a blank screen struggling with the words to use. A rare occurrence for me as writing is a passion, which I rarely grow tired. But how does one broach a matter like suicide? Climbing Mount Everest might appear like an easier task to conquer.
Before I begin on this exposition, first allow me to express my condolences to those who have lost loved ones to this unspeakable tragedy. There are no words that any man, minister, or friend can say to take that kind of heart shattering pain away. Especially, if there is a child, parent, sibling, or spouse involved. Only the love of Christ and the Word of God can do such a thing.
Allow me to also boldly state my position on this issue to avoid any confusion. I do not condone the act. Nor do I support any method of assisted suicide. The purpose of this article is to assess suicide from a biblical position. Answering all questions is impossible. Although this matter is deeply personal and a difficult one at that, pastors, parents and community leaders cannot be dissuaded from discussing the matter. Furthermore, the recent strand of suicides in Hollywood has prodded my sense of urgency to write about this issue. I along with many I am sure grapple with the following: Why suicide? Why would anyone see this as the most effective solution for resolving problems?
Depression and Anxiety
Please know that when I talk about the following, I am also speaking from experience. Anxiety is a frailty I have long dealt with as a child and young adult. Not so much anymore. In fact, very rarely does an episode ever occur. Nevertheless, the potential always remains, and I am never under the delusion that it can’t or won’t rear its ugly head ever again. Years prior to entering into the ministry, I use to believe depression was a crutch people only used as an excuse not to get out of bed. That was until I experienced my own.
Fortunately, the journey I traveled was only a few weeks- six to be exact. I believe the Hand of God carried me through this experience because He knew I’d be counseling patients battling the same illness. I feel He felt I had to first taste the darkness, before I could help usher the light. This happened many years ago. But yet, I can certainly recall the loneliness, confusion and desperation I felt, even to this day. If it weren’t for Jesus Christ and my amazing wife, I would have easily killed myself.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 16.1 million American adults experience a Major Depressive Disorder each year. 61.7% of those suffering from a Persistent Depressive Disorder will not seek treatment. Panic Disorder affects 6 million individuals.
Those numbers are staggering and more than one would think, actually. The symptoms for these ailments are often masked behind facades, phony smiles, and hectic schedules. The struggles for these individuals are buried in silence or the abuse of their self-inflicting inhibitors- until for some, the final moment of reckoning arrives.
Obviously, there are a range of possibilities, which serve as the ultimate culprit. Although I am no physician, I am a theologian in-the-making and an experienced Medical Chaplain. So much of the information and anecdotes I share is derived from the ministry field in which I work; I have dealt with suicide on more than one occasion. Despite the environment, whether trauma or hospice, the situations were akin with commonalities. Each victim suffered from similar disabilities as mentioned above, and conversely, each family responded in like manner.
Here are two questions the loved ones voiced, in every occurrence:
A simple “why,” can be uttered with a crushed heart, or broken dreams.
“Why Jackson?”, “Why Mom”, or “Why God?”
“Unfortunately, the question of “Why?” often serves as a thorn in the flesh of the loved ones. Unless, a note is left explaining the reasons, only one individual can fulfill the void with those details, and that one individual is no longer able to speak.
The last is also a question that cannot be provided with an immediate answer. Frequently, God is blamed. Though, I’d venture to say that even The Father Himself grieves the decision exercised by the victim’s free-will.
Is My Loved one in Hell?
The second question is one that haunts the masses. Crying widows, broken parents, and distraught loved ones have all conjectured alike. To the surprise of many this admonition is not in the Bible.
In all actuality, this parry stems from two persuasions:
- Culturally, the Baby Boomers, and perhaps prior generations before, were ingrained with this precept-my loved one is in Hell because they took their own life. The Christian home, church, and social order embraced this principle as truth. Parents and ministers, understandably so, were attempting to protect their children and others from harmful acts.
- The Catholic Church addresses this matter in their Catechisms, 2280-2283. While the text does not directly state this notion, such conclusions had been derived. The assertion was frequently made that the act itself, was participating in one of the Seven Deadly Sins. In recent years, the Catholic Church has clarified their stance and do not affirm this traditional thought fashioned by “group think.”
This stigma concerning suicide spread all throughout the 20th Century. Even as late, some congregations across faiths and denominations would not give a proper Christian burial for those deceased by suicide. However, take heart; nowhere in Scripture does God’s Word proclaim the penalty for suicide is Hell.
There are realities that few understand.
Life is hard. We suffer. We experience tragedy. We often are defeated. Being critical of another person’s life, situation, or sin is always easier than scrutinizing our own. What is more, there are realities you will never understand. Life has not taken you down that road- so the experience is therefore lacking.
Consider the following circumstances. For obvious reasons, I altered the victim’s identities and details to protect their privacy. Nevertheless, the situations provide a visual worth contemplating.
The Stage Four Brain Cancer reality: Meagan was only 38 years old. She had been a faithful Christian her whole life. Yet one day, she discovered she was dying with an aggressive Stage 4 brain cancer. She didn’t want her husband to have to watch her suffer a slow horrid death. Instead, the two went to Seattle where she took a simple pill. Meagan died with dignity and did not suffer.
The Severe Depression reality: Chad had tried everything. Depression ran in the family. Nothing seemed possible. Everything was dark, dim, and lonely. People had tried to help-though nothing took the pain away; the pain of depression that pierced his soul. Chad believed in Jesus and cried out to God every night-though he always wondered if anyone was listening.
The Addict’s reality: Jake used to be a deacon in the church. But then he was a victim in a car accident and the doctor gave him pain pills. Then he became addicted to heroin. He lost his family, friends, and job. There came a day when Jake felt like there was nothing to live for. He always knew and believed that Christ died for his sins, and he accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior. The heroin addiction was just too much to handle though.
The Blood of Christ
So how does one reconcile the above mentioned situations? Are any of those anecdotes special or more significant than the other? Would one of those individuals go to heaven while another one wouldn’t?
Yes, each of those individuals has committed a grave sin. Yet, a Christ Follower and forgiven person is saved by the grace of Jesus Christ-by faith alone and nothing else.
“When Jesus forgives someone, He forgives all their sins and gives them eternal life and they shall not perish (John 10:28). He does not give them temporary eternal life- otherwise, it would not be eternal.” ~ Matt Slick
Jesus’ sacrifice extends far beyond even acts such as suicide. If no, would not one be suggesting that the Blood of Christ was not sufficient for any sin? Nor is salvation alone dependent upon our last sin. If this were true, all Christians who died unexpectedly would be condemned to Hell if they had not repented of their sins before dying.
However, regardless, a person must be a genuine believer of Christ. He or she must have trusted solely in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” ~ John 14:6
Many suggest, “A real Christian would never do this- where’s their fruit or life?” Honestly, I may have fallen into this category in my younger immature days. While I will never condone such behavior, working in the medical ministry has opened my eyes to a reality of those sufferers I never knew before.
In all actuality, these above mentioned statements are grounded in emotion and not the Bible. We cannot make the Bible say something that it does not.
Those who believe in Jesus know they did absolutely nothing to receive His grace. Works follow our faith…not the other way around.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith’ and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” ~ Ephesians 2:8
God is faithful. Even in the midst of the dark valleys, cold and dreary. I can attest to this truth in my own personal journey through depression. However, reckless abandonment is required. You must be willing to embrace the brokenness, surrendering yourself empty into the righteous right hand of God.
Just as God promised to restore Israel in Isaiah 41, He is faithful and true to restore you.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10
David was a man who knew this dark valley well. Despite his life being in danger by the Philistines, and later hiding from King Saul, he constantly found confidence in the Lord as his refuge.
“For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God in the light of the living.” ~ Psalm 56:13
“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me. God will send forth His loving kindness and His truth. My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire…” ~ Psalm 57: 1-4
The Psalmist resolved to keep His eyes on the Father- even when the enemies pursued. Life can often feel like you are corralling with the lions. When calamities occur our emotions will stir the soul. Nonetheless, we must walk in the light of God’s face- with our eyes constantly on Him. Not our circumstances. Not the darkness. Not the anxiety, depression or giant where victory seems impossible.
Faith is required. Like the helpless father with the demon-possessed boy in Mark 9, who cried out to Jesus for help, cry out to the Lord.
“I do believe; help my unbelief.” ~ Mark 9:24
In this brokenness, cupped in the hands of the Father, peace can be found. Christ Crucified overcame death. Yes, there will be tears. But Jesus conquered the darkness. His blood will wash away the heartache, sin, misfortunes and disease of this world….once and for all.
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33
Love not condemn
Billy Graham once said, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” This quote is pure gold, one which I repeat often. Our goal as Christ Followers should be to genuinely pursue Jesus, and not be distracted by the “god complex” our flesh naturally gravitates to.
Those who suffer from anxiety, depression, drugs, or else need the support and guidance from the church- moreover the love of Christ. Families, who have lost loved ones to a tragic event as such, need Jesus. Not your emotional condemnations or philosophical insights on Scripture.
Remember. There will always be someone else’s reality which you will never understand. As Christians, let’s love the hurting. Shine Jesus’ light upon the darkness. Share His grace with the broken. When heartbreak occurs point to The Cross of Christ for the unanswerable questions. Finally, leave the judging to the Heavenly Father. Indeed, He is well equipped to handle such a task, without needing any assistance.