If suicide has claimed the life of someone you love, you’re likely experiencing a whole host of emotions. Perhaps you’re ashamed that he couldn’t face his problems, hurt that she left you behind, confounded that death could possibly have seemed like the best option, or angry that she didn’t reach out to you for help. With so many questions that haunt us about death, suicide seems to yell its questions even louder:
“Why did he do this?”
“What could I have done to stop her?”
“Do I still consider him a good person?”
“What happens to someone who chooses to take his/her life?”
“Will I see her in some afterlife or is she punished forever for this?”
The motives for suicide are myriad, and so intertwined with depression and mental illness that it is difficult to understand what can lead a person to follow through with such a final act. We know that depression and mental illness affect one’s inner thoughts. Mental illness may cause a person to suffer to the point that he or she believes they are not good enough and do not deserve to live. When these thoughts become too overwhelming, a person may feel forced to take his or her own life.
Some people suffer from so much physical or mental pain that suicide seems like the only way to end it. Ultimately the pain takes over to the point that they lose all hope in living.
This level of despair and pain may be unimaginable to those who aren’t going through it, but for some people it is all too real, and can lead to a life-terminating decision. Lifting oneself out of the darkness and mire of depression and suicidal thoughts is a daunting—perhaps seemingly impossible—task, but God’s loving promises can cut through the pain and confusion to offer a measure of clarity and hope.
Life is good. Death is bad.
If you don’t believe in an afterlife, or if you assume it’s something vaguely pleasant and peaceful, it’s plausible to see death as a solution to overwhelming, relentless life problems. This is a lie that a twisted mind tells, or perhaps even the devil himself. But death is a result of the fall of mankind, and was never a part of God’s original plan for His people. When God originally created humans, we were never supposed to die. With the fall of man came of the dawn of death, but our God is a God of life (Mark 12:27). Death is the ultimate sign that there is something wrong with the world.
For the most part, society reflects this. We see people cry at funerals and mourn the people from whom they are separated. On the other hand, we see people rejoice at the birth of a baby and celebrate each new year of life. In general, the belief that life is good and death is bad seems to be part of the fabric of humanity. Death separates us from people and hurts us. Jesus proclaimed that life is meant to be lived, and lived fully (John 10:10).
God is the one who has given us life, and He does not intend for us to end it before He, the Author of life, determines that the time is right (Job 1:21)—not because He is a cosmic dictator with an unhealthy desire for control, but because it is proper for the one who begins and sustains life to also be the one who ends it.
Is suicide a sin?
Yes, Christians believe that suicide is a sin (an offense against God). God calls us not to murder (Exodus 20:13), and that includes murdering ourselves. He has entrusted life to us and desires that we honor all life, even our own.
God also offers forgiveness freely to everyone who believes in Him. This free forgiveness covers all our wrongs, even suicide. There is a standing belief among some that suicide cannot be forgiven because we do not have the chance to ask for forgiveness before we die. This belief is based on the assumption that we have to ask forgiveness for every wrong thing we do, which is simply impossible.
Forgiveness from God is not based on what we do or even the severity of our sin. Jesus died on the cross to eradicate all the sins of the world, and God’s forgiveness has no bounds. His love covers all wrongs for all of his people, even those who never have the chance to say, “I’m sorry.” This free forgiveness comes with the gift of life forever under God’s loving reign, as perfect beings in a perfect community. This includes not only what is traditionally known as heaven, but also starts among Christians here on earth today—it just won’t be fully expressed or realized until after we die.
Although suicide is a sin, sadness is not. Do not assume that just because you are deep in the depths of despair that death is the only or best answer. The Bible is full of people crying out to the Lord, desperate for peace. The Psalmist in Psalm 42 expresses such anguish with, “My tears have been my food day and night,” and “Why are you downcast my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” The key here is how the psalmist responds to his sadness: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” In your lowest moments, refocusing on the Lord—rather than yourself—can pull your mind out of its downward, inward spiral and awaken your mind to God’s goodness and His love for you. Darkness cannot survive in the presence of light (John 1:5).
In fact, the book of James begins by saying that we should consider it joy when we face trials because it produces perseverance. It goes on to say, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
For those on the brink: God loves you. Really.
God’s love for all people is beyond human understanding. If you are feeling lost, alone, and separated from love, know that God loves you more than you can imagine. He does not consider you a failure, nor does he count your wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). You are His beautiful and perfect creation—His child, and the heir to His inheritance (Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 1:11-14). Nothing you could do or have done can separate you from the love He has for you (Romans 8:38-39). He will walk with you through your darkest times (Psalm 23:4). He intends for His children to have life, and to have it to the fullest (John 10:10). He knows you intimately, and He has good plans for your life (Jeremiah 29:11). Seek Him, and He will begin to reveal Himself to you (Matthew 7:7).
It’s true that God’s love can be difficult to fully experience—because it’s greater than any human love, and because it comes from a being who, while we’re on earth, can feel intangible to us. Do not accept lies that tell you’re not good enough, that the world would be better off without you, or that your sins are unforgiveable; God’s love covers all sins and redeems all people. If you’re entrenched in pain or burdened by mental illness, you may find it even more difficult to internalize the truth of God’s redeeming love.
But God gives us tangible solutions to real-life problems. He tells us to go to His living Word, the Bible, to learn about His love for us. Spending time chewing on and digesting his Word opens our eyes to see and our ears to hear the reality of Christ in our lives. God’s love is real, even if we aren’t “feeling it,” but this is a good thing. It means that God’s love is bigger than our feelings, which are prone to fluctuate; His love, however, is steadfast. When we face our darkest times, God’s Holy Spirit can intercede and send us on a path toward life.
Real help for real people
God knows that for now, we lead an earthly existence full of brokenness, hurt, and human error. In His perfect wisdom, He also provides earthly help to those who seek Him. Doctors, pastors, counselors, family members, and friends can provide support if you’re thinking about ending your life. Right now today there are people who care about you, even if your mind is blinding you to that truth. Call on these people in your life and share with them your fears and thoughts so that they can help you.
If you are not able to reach out to those you know, or if you need immediate help, then call a helpline or seek the counsel of a professional in your area; they are ready and willing to offer guidance and walk you through this time. The Mayo Clinic states on their website that suicidal thoughts are fleeting. This too shall pass. Take a step back and talk to someone and allow the hope to come back into your life.
Furthermore, all Christians are called to help people who are hurting. Just because someone is Christian does not mean they will have all the perfect words for you, but reaching out is often the first step out of the darkness.
Jesus understands emotional pain. In the book of Matthew, we see Jesus struggle with the weight of his impending suffering on the cross: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He asked His disciples to, “Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-46) This is Jesus, God as man, and even He experienced suffering to the brink of human limits. He needed the company of his imperfect-but-present friends (who fell asleep while waiting with Him). He also talked to God about how he was feeling, and God gave Him the power to continue His perfect plan.
When we are facing dark times, we often feel too weak to fight off the thoughts our minds send our way. Jesus was no stranger to weakness. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
We see that he addressed his weakness by calling out to God, his Father, on multiple occasions—asking for strength, another option, and ultimately God’s will. Again, reaching out to the Lord rather than looking inward is key. We are not promised a pain-free life, but we are offered strength from God and support from community when we suffer.
God has the all-surpassing power to draw us out of our present circumstances and deliver us to a place of healing and hope.
How to help the hurting
Be there. Be present and available to people who are suffering. You may not always have the right words to say, but don’t dwell on that. If you know someone who is in a dark place, lend him or her a shoulder. Listening is simply the best gift you can give to people who are hurting. Remind them that they are not alone, that they are not a mistake, and that they are of great worth. If they’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, their minds are likely manipulating them to believe lies about themselves.
Take suicide seriously. If someone shares his or her suicidal thoughts, ideas, or plans for self-harm, you need to respond. Don’t leave that person alone; stay with him or her. Asking about the plan or idea will not hurt your friend, nor will it push him or her to act on the thoughts. Let your friend know how much you care. Assist him or her in seeking help through counseling or a medical evaluation. Any of these things can be the first step on your friend’s path to recovery.
Follow up. Continue to check in with, and reach out to, any friend who is struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression. You may be the only person calling or the only one he or she interacts with at all that day. Remind your friend that he or she is loved and not alone.
If you’ve heard Christians talk about suicide in an abrasive way in the past, check out this honest, genuine funeral sermon by the friend of someone who committed suicide
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Suicide: 1-800-273-8255
Mayo Clinic info about suicide: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/suicide/symptoms-causes/syc-20378048
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: https://save.org/about-suicide/mental-illness-and-suicide/