Grace for Suicide, Contemplated or Committed
On Tuesday, March 3, 1987, around 10am, death by suicide shocked and shattered our family. I was in the sixth grade. I hadn't experienced the death of a close family member up to that point. Today, thirty-five years later, having experienced other family members die from disease or by natural causes, I now see death by suicide as a double-death. Double the pain. Double the grief. Double the questions. Double the regrets. Double the guilt. But, take heart, there is also double the grace available. (Romans 5:20)
To the Suicide Contemplator...
You should know where the desires for self-destruction come from. It is possible to have a tender heart spiritually, be engaged socially, and be strong physically while at the same time be tortured mentally. Thoughts can strangulate, terrorize and produce overwhelming anxiety in us. And you may be the only one aware of this inner, intense struggle that is going on in your noisy soul. What is the origin of this pattern of thinking and internal musing? It comes from inside you. It originates from the invisible you. We refer to that part of you as your mind, heart, soul or spirit. The Bible describes human nature as having two parts: physical and spiritual. Contemplations of self-harm or self-destruction come from the spiritual part of the human nature, the inner me. That's important to know. If we are going to deal with hidden, potentially destructive thoughts, we must acknowledge where this thinking comes from in order to capture these thoughts. (II Corinthians 10:5b) Friend, if you are contemplating suicide, begin to see your depression, your discouragement and your hopelessness as a test, and not as a sin. Reveal your thoughts of contemplating suicide to a friend or counselor. If you don't have someone to talk to at this moment, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 right now.
Friend, if you are contemplating suicide, begin to see your depression, your discouragement and your hopelessness as a test, and not as a sin.
Are thoughts of depression, self-harm or suicide sinful? No. Wrong category. Dark, discouraged, and depressed thoughts are mostly temptations. They are trials. Temptation and sin are not the same thing. They are in different categories. How we respond to temptations can lead to sinful behavior, for sure. Unbelief, irritability, self-pity, isolation, damaging your body by self harm, or self-murder (suicide) are all sins. The thinking that precedes those sins is temptation, however. There has been extensive damage done to those who struggle by good-intentioned Christians who blur the lines of temptation and sin and conflate the two. When the struggle is considered to be sin, the actual sin can begin to be viewed as almost inevitable. Struggling friend, please hear this. The mental anguish you are battling with is not the sin. It is a test. Don't give in. Don't give up. It's a test.
What is suicide? Is it a legitimate way to end my mental pain? Suicide is self-murder. It is a violation of the sixth commandment. Suicide is the destruction of the image of God. It is a sin. It's one of the sins that God hates. Murder is the taking of an innocent life.
Suicide is self-murder.
The Scriptures arguably permit homicide in the cases of capital punishment, self-defense and just war. Excruciating, even debilitating emotional turmoil is not a Biblical reason for taking a life. Don't commit self-murder. Don't sin against God by committing suicide. Suicide is an illegitimate, permanent solution to a common, transitory problem.
Will I Go To Heaven If I commit suicide? For the suicide contemplator, I want to answer this question with a specific, Biblical law: murderers don't go to Heaven. If you are contemplating self-murder, don't presume that you can violate God's law and still "go to Heaven." This is the same answer we should give to a person contemplating adultery, stealing, giving false witness, etc. I remember hearing a professing believer say to me once, "I know what we are contemplating doing is sin, but we can ask God to forgive us afterwards and He will." I left that conversation in serious doubt about the saving faith of those folks. Not because I don't believe in God's forgiveness for sins after salvation (I John 1:9). I absolutely do. But the root of that sentiment doesn't reflect someone who has died to sin. (Romans 6:1) "Will I go to heaven if I commit suicide?" is the wrong question. "Do Christians commit murder?" is a better question. Make no mistake, if you commit self-murder, you should fear eternal perdition.
Will this emotional, mental pain go away if I don't commit suicide? Sometimes God miraculously removes our physical, mental or spiritual ailments. Ask Him. Ask Him repeatedly. But more often, in this broken world, we are called to manage our physical, mental and spiritual brokenness. Most of the time, we are called to endure and enjoy God's grace in the midst of our weaknesses.
"...more often, in this broken world, we are called to manage our physical, mental and spiritual brokenness."
Believers like Joni Erickson Tada are examples for us. Joni asked for miraculous healing, repeatedly. Instead she has endured a life of physical disability and pain. Beloved, your "thorn in the flesh" or your "cross to carry" may be long-term, or intermittent, emotional pain. During this time away from Home, hear the Savior's words: "My grace is sufficient for you." Don't sin by suicide. Don't quit.
Grace for Suicide Committed...
The Bible knows nothing of repenting for someone else. And, guilt that doesn't lead to repentance, never goes anywhere healthy.
I Feel Guilty.
Suicide brings double-guilt. "What if I had seen the signs?" "What if I had intervened?" "Did I contribute to their emotional pain?" These questions, and more, can torture surviving family and friends. The Bible knows nothing of repenting for someone else. And, guilt that doesn't lead to repentance, never goes anywhere healthy. The challenge with suicide, due to it most often being the result of mental anguish, is that it sheds more guilt to those close by than other sins do. For instance, if a family member or friend steals, lies, or commits adultery, we seem to have an easier time viewing them as completely responsible for their choices. Even if you do conscientiously believe that you bear some responsibility for your friend or family member's suicide, the answer for the Christian is always the same: take your guilt to the cross and leave it there. False guilt and legitimate guilt both receive grace and peace at Calvary. Preach the gospel to your guilty feelings.
I Have Questions About Eternity.
When we come to the question, "did my friend or family member who committed suicide go to Heaven" our doctrine of salvation is put the test. The Scriptures teach us that salvation is "all of God." Sixteen tragic possibilities are listed in Romans 8 that are unable to separate us from the love of God. To be clear, dying while committing a sin as a born again Christian, can't reverse the new birth. Suicide, or any other sin for that matter, doesn't have the power to pluck us out of His hand. So, if the fruits of salvation have been demonstrated in our friends or family members who commit suicide, we should have gospel-confidence that they are in the presence of God. Do you remember Lot's wife? She died in unbelief by turning into a pillar of salt. But she was one of the "righteous" people God was rescuing from Sodom and Gomorrah. "Remember Lot's wife." I'm expecting to see her in Heaven.
I Am Really Angry.
Within hours of our family member taking their life, I heard various family members talking about the upcoming life events they would miss out on now. There was more than sadness in their voice. It was anger. The pain that we experience when suicide occurs, the sense of loss, abandonment, and that raw feeling of being cheated out of decades of life together often sparks anger in our hearts. Righteous anger is aroused by an injustice but unresolved anger can devolve into bitterness. The finality of suicide means that relationally, there can be no resolution on this side of eternity. Forgiving from our hearts the loved one who unjustly took their lives from us, is the best way to deal with the anger that heaves from our hearts.
I Need Privacy.
We learned that suicide often brings double-shame. Only folks very close to our family knew that our loved one had taken their life. We kept it quiet. I have often wondered what Eve, our first mother, must have gone through. In one furious moment, she became both the mother of a murderer and the mother of a victim of a violent homicide. Her grief was double. Her pain was double. Her shame was double. And every set of eyeballs that have ever read Genesis 4 has read of her most heart-shattering moment. Perhaps there's a lesson there.
"For from Jesus' fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."
A Prayer for Those Who Are Contemplating Suicide & Those Who Have Experienced the Ferocious Goodbye of Suicide
We come to you on behalf of those who are hopeless, afraid, and depressed and are contemplating taking their lives. We ask for your sustaining, sufficient grace to strengthen them in the inner man. Give them endurance and encouragement through the Scriptures that they might have hope. Give them courage to share with someone their struggle. Pair them with ones that they will allow to "bear their burdens together with them and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Lord Jesus Christ,
For those who are left shocked, stunned and shattered by a friend or love one taking their life, we ask that You, Who experienced the abandonment of those closest to You, would minister to their hearts as the Merciful HighPriest that you are. May they learn of You during this season of unimaginable pain and vulnerability. May they run to You. May we all run to You.
Fill us. Use us. Make us more in tune with those that are hopeless and overwhelmed with emotional pain and anxiety. Give us soft hearts to listen, and grant us strong arms to lean on.
In the mighty name of Jesus,