Louann and I were visiting a Christian camp in Southern Colorado when someone, who knew about our 17 year old son’s death due to a car crash, asked me to speak with a gentleman who had just experienced a terrible tragedy. I met with this distraught man who often cried as he talked to me about his 30 year old son who was married; they had no children.
His son was the Camp’s counselor, mentor to many, and an all-around great person who deeply loved and served the Lord. The dad told me that his son was on prescription medications for severe depression for several years. A week ago the son told his wife that he was going on a hike into the forest. She thought nothing of it as he often did that to be alone with the Lord for prayer and meditation.
This time he did not come home. They found his body. He’d hung himself. He’d left behind a note that told his loved ones that he couldn’t go on living with such a deep and horrible depression and that he was truly sorry for the pain he was causing and would cause. He chose to die rather than endure more pain than he thought he could bear, and to spare his loved ones the pain of watching him – over time – die a slow ugly death.
The dad tearfully told me that he knew his son was with the Lord regardless of the implications of suicide. I believed him. Before we departed, we hugged and cried. We both know our sons are with the Lord.
What is Suicide?
Suicide is the act of intentionally killing oneself. It’s a terrible tragedy not only for the person whose life is lost, but also for their surviving family and friends who experience feelings of grief, emptiness, guilt, failure or shame…exactly what this dad was experiencing as well as his son’s wife and their many loved ones.
In the U.S.A., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and accounted for over 39,518 deaths in 2013. That accounts for 12.7 deaths per 100,000 population. The number of emergency room visits in 2013 for self-inflicted injuries that survived: 713,000
Every 17 minutes someone in America commits suicide. In North America, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among people 15 to 25 years old, college students for the great part. Among children between 5 and 14 years of age, suicide is the 6th most common cause of death.
Tragically, young people kill themselves mainly for one reason: they can’t believe their lives are precious enough to make them worth living. Despair, depression, hopelessness, and self-loathing – these are the killers.
Warning Signs of Suicide
The following signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs, seek help as soon as possible.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
If you, or someone you care about, are depressed or thinking about suicide, it’s absolutely critical to seek help right away.
Nowadays, just about all suicides result from treatable mental disorders that have everything to do with brain chemistry gone awry. As with other illnesses like heart disease and cancer, suicide deaths can’t be prevented by prayer alone. Professional medical treatment, counseling, neuro and biofeedback, chiropractic cranial care, nutrition, forgiveness, and many other health related approaches are the answers to our prayers that God provides. I believe depression must be treated in regards to the body, soul and spirit and not just the body, not just the soul, or not just the body and soul, rather ALL three must be addressed equally.
Warning Signs of Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is a disorder of the brain.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
- Disengagement from life, not wanting to visit or call friends
- Expressing extreme feelings of hopelessness, despair and self-doubt. The more often such feelings are described as “unbearable,” the more likely it is the idea of suicide may be entering the person’s mind.
- Taking care of personal affairs, taking steps to insure the family’s welfare.
- Writing goodbye letters.
- Engaging in drug or alcohol abuse.
- Rehearsing suicide, or seriously discussing suicidal methods.
- Bouts of crying.
- An unusually upbeat outlook. Although it sounds strange, someone dealing with depression might be most likely to attempt suicide when he or she seems to have passed an episode’s low point and appears to be on the way to recovery.
Anyone feeling severely depressed or having thoughts of suicide should promise himself or herself not to take any action until immediately discussing it with a knowledgeable pastor, school guidance counselor, physician, psychologist, hospital emergency room physician or suicide hotline. All these people are trained to recognize warning signs of depression and to know how to help or where to direct the necessary help that’s needed.
Most thoughts of suicide are associated with depression which is an illness. Depression was not recognized as an illness in Biblical times, so there are no direct references to it in the Bible. Some of our most treasured Biblical heroes like Jacob (Genesis 37:34-35), Job (Job 3:1-11) and King David (2 Samuel 18:33) obviously suffered from deep depression at some point in their lives.
As with other illnesses, treatment from a healthcare professional is often God’s answer to prayers about depression. I’m no respecter of anyone who tells someone in the grip of depression to “get over it” like Jacob, or Job, or King David did, or to “just pray it through with enough faith to heal it.” Hogwash from the pit of hell.
Does a Christian Committing Suicide go to Hell?
People often wonder if a person who dies from suicide can be saved and be accepted in to Heaven. The Bible doesn’t say anything about this. Most Christians believe what matters most to God is how a person lives his or her life rather than how he or she dies.
There are passages that indicate life is given by God and only God has the right to take it away. For example in Job 1: 21, “I came naked from my mother’s womb,” he said, “and I shall have nothing when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were his to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Also, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9: 27
Yes, it’s true that God has given life to you and me to do His work on Earth. Our bodies (the Temple of the Holy Spirit) belong to God, not to ourselves. It’s up to Him to decide when our work on Earth is finished, and not up to us, “Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that He lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because He owns it.” 1st Corinthians 6:19-20
Often, (and we’ve all been there, or are there, or are going to be there) the extremely difficult times in our lives, when things seem utterly hopeless, are opportunities to learn valuable lessons such as humility, dependence on God, the value of prayer, or to learn how to help others who are suffering…if the person is willing to accept that and get over their stubbornness.
In those terrible times when things seem to be at the absolute worst, we can be sure that God loves us more than ever, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7
Seven Bible Suicides
The Bible mentions suicide, but it doesn’t give any specific teachings about suicide. The Word of God doesn’t appear to condemn suicide. There are seven suicides mentioned in the Bible:
1. [Abimelech] called hastily unto the young man his armor-bearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died (Judges 9:54).
2. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed with all his might; and the house fell…upon all the people that were therein (Judges 16:30).
3. Saul took a sword and fell on it (1 Sam. 31:4).
4. When [Saul’s] armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died (1 Sam 31:5).
5. When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he…got him home to his house, to his city, and put his house in order, and hanged himself, and died (2 Sam. 17:23).
6. It came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the palace of the king’s house, and burnt the king’s house over him with fire, and died (1 Kings 16:18).
7. [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matt. 27:5).
Do you believe that believers who commit suicide, such as the depressed 30 year old camp counselor, tragically go to Hell?
If so, I want you to know that there’s something called “slow suicide”. An example of this is where someone takes in highly dangerous toxins over a period of time until it slowly, painfully and very expensively kills them. They’re called – smokers and alcoholics…and some were believers. Do they go to Hell?
Smokers and alcoholics committed slow suicide when they died because they continually abused known toxins and carcinogenics. Again, do they go to Hell?
What about the person who’s constantly told by their doctor to cut back on fried, fast, fatty foods or it’ll kill them, but they didn’t care or believe they would and then they tragically died because of obesity? And some were believers… do they go to Hell?
Or what about the trapped people who jumped off the World Trade Center? Their clothes caught fire, their flesh burned, and they chose to jump. Or they didn’t want to die by burning or being crushed and instead deliberately jumped? And some were believers… did they go to Hell?
Will Jesus welcome home to Heaven a believer who died at their own hands? I believe He will, tenderly and lovingly.
My Biblical basis? It’s the incredible hope-giving promise of Romans 8:32, “That neither life nor death can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
I absolutely believe that Jesus died not only for our sins but for ALL our sins, including the forgotten ones… including suicide.
Sadly, you’ll hear some say that, “Suicide can’t be forgiven because the person who did it could not have repented of doing it.” And some will say, “The Bible says as a part of The Ten Commandments: Thou shall not kill (whether it’s another person or yourself). People who have done harm to themselves or others will not inherit the kingdom.”
I don’t believe either of those above two lies at all. They’re tragically hurtful, insensitive, mean-spirited, and have no true biblical basis whatsoever.
ALL of us commit sins that we’re too spiritually dull to recognize for the sins they truly are. And every one of us will die with sins not named and or repented from.
Believers! We should be far less concerned about whether Christians who have killed themselves go to Heaven, and be FAR more concerned about how we can help people like them find hope and joy in living through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our most serious problem is not the morality of suicide but the spiritual and mental despair that drags these precious people down to it. We must help pull them out of these pits of hell in every best way possible.
Are Believers “Slowly Suicidal” in Christ?
Here’s a thought to chew on: You and I as believers are, in a way, “suicidal” every day, multiple times throughout the day ever since you and I got to personally know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Think about it…we’re willing ourselves to be “crucified with Christ”. We’re putting to “death” our selves…we choose to crucify our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him. Isn’t that a form of “slow suicide”, too?
Death by crucifixion is one of the cruelest and most painful forms of execution ever devised. Yet the Lord Jesus, “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2); He “hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
But just as He sacrificed Himself for us, we’re now privileged to offer our “bodies a living sacrifice” to Him (Romans 12:1). In the Bible, this spiritual sacrifice is actually compared to crucifixion. “Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:6 Hmmm…a slow suicide… the act of intentionally killing oneself… dying to the sin nature.
The death of a believer to sin doesn’t take place in a moment of some special blessing, but just like crucifixion it’s a slow and painful death. Dying to self is a basic act for the truly effective Christian life to change the world.
In the book of Galatians, we’re told the following three things by the apostle Paul in which the Christian believer should be following Christ in His crucifixion:
- in crucifixion to self – we’re to be crucified to the love of self. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
- to the flesh – “We are to be crucified to the flesh, for they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Galatians 5:24
- and to the world – we should be crucified to the lure of this world. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” Romans 8:18-24
Certainties in Life
- You and I will die
- You and I will face the Judgment of God for everything we’ve done
- Christ died once for the sins of His people
- Christ is alive and He’s coming back
With those four things in mind, well before you get to the end of your life, ask yourself…
- Who did I love
- Who loved me
- What did I do for the Lord
Believers, we can safely trust to our gracious, merciful, loving God our loved ones who have died at their own hands. But, for now it’s those loved ones in the grip of severe depression whose body, soul and spirit are slowly slipping away ever so silently toward a death by their own means; these precious ones are OUR immediate burden…they must be rescued…you must now help.