My beloved brother-in-law committed suicide. It is an unresolved sadness that I carry within me. The suicide of my spouse’s twin-brother casts a shadow in my spouse’s heart.
Life is a gift. It can be joyful and beautiful, but it can also have periods of great challenge, loss, pain, and deep sorrow. Although we may grow weary of our journey, the time of our death is not ours to choose. There may be times in our lives when we desire eternal rest, but Jesus teaches that decisions of life and death are not ours to make. Life is the signature of God.
I don’t know how God judges people who commit suicide. I do know that God is a loving, compassionate and merciful God. Some believe that suicide is an unforgivable sin, but I have never read in the Bible that suicide is an unforgivable sin. Forgiveness of any sin, including suicide, seems consistent with a loving and merciful Heavenly Father who knows our hearts and has deep compassion for our suffering. Forgiveness is a cornerstone of Christ’s teachings, consistent with the promise of our Heavenly Father’s love: “For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are — high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean — nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.” (by the Apostle Paul, Romans 8:38-39)
Christ teaches us to trust Him in all things, presumably including when we are meant to die: “Let not your heart be troubled. You are trusting God, now trust in me.” (Jesus quoted in John 14:1) God sees our lives in ways we cannot possibly comprehend and only He knows what contributions, enlightenment, and purposes may lie ahead of us and the reasons why.
It may seem understandable that sometimes people may wish for death, but Christ teaches that the things that drive people to such hopeless and despair are not His desire and not of God’s making. Christ will not abandon us in our time of need if we believe in Him and turn to Him for help: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” (2 Corinthians 8-9) We must learn to keep our faith and never lose hope.
The prophet Elijah prayed for death at one point in his life, but Elijah did not end his own life. Even when Elijah felt he’d had enough, Elijah deferred to the will of God as to when his life should end and chose to persevere: “I’ve had enough,” he told the Lord. ‘Take away my life. I’ve got to die sometimes, and it might as well be now.’ Then he lay down and slept beneath the broom bush. But as he was sleeping, an Angel touched him and told him to get up and eat! He looked around and saw some bread baking on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the Angel of the Lord came again and touched him and sat, ‘Get up and eat some more, for there is a long journey ahead of you.” (1 Kings 19:5-7)
There are several stories of suicide in the Bible including King Saul and Samson, but the majority of Biblical stories involve people who have struggled and overcome great challenges through their faith in God and Jesus.
Whether you believe that suicide is a forgivable sin or not, Christ teaches us to demonstrate love, compassion, and mercy to everyone — including those who are no longer with us and those who may be struggling with suicidal tendencies (as well as their families and friends). It is not God’s will that anyone’s life be unbearable or that anyone feel unloved. Whether we realize it or not, God is with us when we are in pain: “The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking...” (Psalm 34:18)
The reality is that our world can be hard and even godly people can commit suicide in desperation, a moment of impaired judgment, or mental impairment. Or perhaps someone sacrifices their life so others may live. Our focus should not be on judging anyone, but on helping those we can — including the people they leave behind who loved them.
I did not know that my brother-in-law was contemplating suicide. Even if I had, I do not know if I could have prevented it from happening. I would have liked the opportunity to try, and in hindsight I wish we had talked about Christ when he was alive. I think in part his untimely death is the reason I talk about Christ more openly now.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal tendencies, pray for Christ’s help and do not hesitate to become involved and involve professionals with experience in suicide intervention. God often works through people to answer our prayers and provides resources for us that can help us. Although the person-at-risk ultimately must make the decision to live and no one can make that decision on their behalf, God will not fail those who put their faith in Him: “Give your burdens to the Lord. He will carry them. He will not permit the godly to slip or fall.” (Psalms 55:22)
Photo by Iurii Kuzo