Suicide is a subject that brings multiple emotions. Most people know of someone who has dealt with a family member, friend or acquaintance who has committed the ultimate act of self-harm. With the pandemic we are all facing, the rates of suicide are on the rise. Further, holidays often magnify our sorrows and difficulties. Some come to the conclusion that checking out of life is their only viable option. We know it is not, but some reach that point. This Christmas season reminds us to be sensitive to those around us who are struggling with depression, feeling there is no way out and no way through. They lose perspective and think there is only one way out. Recently I was reminded again of the reality that people we love are battling life and death issues. There are many questions and misunderstandings regarding suicide.
One of the most frequently asked questions when a Christian commits suicide is, “Does that person still go to heaven?” In other words, is suicide the unpardonable sin? As in all things, God’s Word must be our final authority on what we believe, not feelings or opinions. Many do not realize that two men who were powerfully used of God at specific times in their lives died as a result of taking their own lives—Saul, the King of Israel (I Samuel 31:1-5) and Samson (Judges 16:25-30). There is little doubt that both of these men are in heaven, although they committed suicide. They are in heaven not because of what they did but because of what God promised. Samson is even named in Hebrews 11 which has been called God’s Hall of Faith which names believers who have had an eternally significant impact on the world for God.
“Suicide is the ultimate ‘I give up’ statement. It is a surrender to the belief that a life is so messed up that there is no possibility of salvaging anything from it.” (gotquestions.com blog).
Recently I read the following article by Ray Comfort: “The suicides that happen daily rarely make national news. But when a celebrity commits suicide, it’s international news. It hits the headlines because, in one sense, it doesn’t make sense. Riches, success, and fame don’t add up to suicide. They don’t even add up to depression. But depression is undoubtedly the fast lane on the high¬way that so often leads to the place of self-destruction.
Here are just some of the celebrities who tragically took their own lives:
- Anthony Bourdain, age 61. Anthony, chef and best known for his show “No Reservations,” died from suicide on June 8, 2018.
- Kate Spade, age 55. Kate Spade was an iconic fashion designer and mother who died by hanging in her Manhattan, New York, apartment on June 5, 2018.
- Chester Bennington, age 41. Chester Bennington was the lead singer of Linkin Park and hanged himself July 20, 2017.
- Chris Cornell, age 52. Chris Cornell was the lead singer of Soundgarden who died by hanging in 2017.
- Aaron Hernandez, age 27. Former NFL star who died by hanging in his jail cell in 2017.
- Robin Williams’ apparent suicide has put a spotlight on the dark side of comedy. Williams, like comedians John Belushi and Chris Farley, lived with long-term depression and addiction.
Experts say these mental illnesses are no laughing matter.”
(Ray Comfort, The Final Curtain, New Leaf Press, 2018, pgs. 7-8)
As Christians there are four words we must consider when thinking about the issue of suicide: Sin, Scripture, Sickness, Salvation:
Is suicide named as the unpardonable sin? Absolutely not. There is only one unpardonable sin and that is rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Every other sin can be forgiven. Never in Scripture is taking one’s own life mentioned as being a sin that cannot be forgiven. If it was, God would have made it clear. (Matthew 12:31-32).
Will Jesus Christ welcome a Christian into heaven who commits suicide? The Bible says emphatically, “Yes!” The Bible says much about God’s promise to those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In matters of life and eternity, only the Bible is the final authority on what we believe. The following Scriptures bring us tremendous comfort in our time of grief:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
1 John 5:10-13
Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
“for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
1 Peter 1:4-5
To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
When someone has a physical illness and dies, although saddened, we understand that disease takes people’s lives from cancer to heart attacks, from diabetes to Covid19, along with a myriad of other ailments that could lead to death. However, there are some, Christians included, who have an illness emotionally and mentally. Unfortunately, many struggle to understand that as much as they do a physical disease. Some people get to the point where their mental and emotional pain is so immense they feel there is only one way to stop the pain. Mental and emotional pain are not as easily diagnosed or understood as a physical ailment, therefore when one ends the pain by taking his or her own life, it leaves many unanswered questions. We may never have answers to those questions this side of heaven. Christians must begin to accept the fact that mental and emotional pain is as real as physical pain.
Was the person who committed suicide a Christian? If so, that person’s salvation was secure and unaffected by the act of suicide. Chuck Swindoll communicates powerfully about the subject. He said:
Suicide is not more powerful than the saving grace of Jesus. Suicide cannot snatch anyone from the Father’s hand (John 10:27–30). Salvation has nothing to do with what we do—we cannot earn it through righteous acts, and we cannot lose it through sinful acts. It comes through faith. (Ephesians 2:8–9). Therefore, even if the final act of a believer is the sin of suicide, the redeeming, regenerating work of God in that person’s life cannot be undone. God will not reject anyone who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ. That would be completely inconsistent with the nature of salvation. (https://www.insight.org/resources/article-library/individual/still-living-grieving-after-a-suicide).
In John 11:25-26 Jesus said to Martha the sister of Lazarus,
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.
Jesus is saying that when you have salvation, you have eternal life. In other words, spiritually you never die. Although physically you will die, spiritually you move from this life to eternity, life in the presence of Jesus Christ. At the moment of salvation you are saved from your past sins, your present sins and your future sins. In Hebrews 10:11-12 and 14 the writer says:
“11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
When a Christian commits suicide, that sin as hurtful as it is for others, is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ’s grace, blood, and work on the cross is greater than the sin of a Christian’s suicide. In that we can rest.
In this season of “Good tidings of great joy,” be sensitive to those around you. You never know, they may be battling life and death issues. Let your actions and words be used of God to remind them that because of Immanuel, God with us, there is great hope.