A Sober but Compassionate Look
Although the presentation in this article may be considered a serious and sober warning, it is also a compassionate plea. It is true that some suicidal persons are hard-hearted and do not want to know the truth. Yet there are many who are filled with deep pain who need love and compassion expressed in direct and truthful words. Our message is clear and direct but filled with care and compassion for hurting people who desperately need answers about life, death, and eternity. If you have ever considered taking your own life or if you know a friend or family member who has considered the tragic escape of suicide, please read over this message carefully and prayerfully. It will offer hope for those who are caught in life’s perplexities and a seemingly hopeless situation.
We all have troubles and disappointments in life. Some of us, however, seem to have more than our share. Are you personally facing a serious problem at present that you just don’t know how to handle? Maybe you don’t know where to turn and are simply tired of fighting a seemingly hopeless battle.
The problems we face come in different forms. Maybe you have lost a loved one after a long fight with cancer. Some of you have discovered that your husband or wife has been unfaithful, deserting you for the arms of a lover. Maybe you have failed in school and are concluding that you just can’t make the grade. Perhaps your boyfriend or girlfriend has decided to end the relationship. Some of you have lost out on the job and been fired; others dislike their employment and can hardly bear to go to work each day. Others have failed in their business and face bankruptcy. Some are entering older age, with loneliness and diminished health. You may be battling a terminal disease and the end is in sight.
All of these problems and many others can make life miserable. We just don’t know where to turn for help. We wanted a life of sunshine but end up with gray and gloomy skies. We wanted friendship and happiness but have found loneliness and sadness. We wanted a life of peace but discover that arguments and strife are part of our daily life. We pursued pleasure but now find that our pursuit brought only emptiness and sorrow. Each hour is a burden and we don’t know how we can go on another day.
Some people encounter these frustrations, perplexities, and disappointments and conclude that they cannot be solved. They reason that if fulfillment cannot come, what is the use of living any longer. Therefore, they choose the way of death. They assume that since this life is unbearable, they will just end it all. Surely the future—after death—cannot be worse than the present. Suicide seems like the only option. Suicide literally means “self-killing”—a person chooses to kill himself. What do we know about this tragedy?
Carol was a neighborhood girl, living only two houses away from ours. During our preteen years we played the common childhood games, rode bicycles, and spent time together. By the teen years, she went her way and I went mine. I eventually moved away from my hometown but occasionally heard of her through my mother’s letters. Carol was now a woman with a husband and three children of her own. I learned that she was having a hard time and apparently life was not going as she wished. Then one day I received the sad news. Carol had killed herself. How could she have made this unchangeable decision? What could I have done? What could anyone have done to prevent such a tragedy?
Carol is not alone. People have taken their life from the beginning of time and throughout history. Suicides were common in certain cultures: the ritualistic suicide of high-ranking Japanese, the suttee of Indian widows, the self-burning of Buddhist monks, and the self-destruction of aged Eskimos.
We may recall various persons who have chosen to take their life in history: Socrates, Nero, Vincent van Gogh, Nazi General Rommel, Adolph Hitler, Marilyn Monroe, and Ernest Hemingway. In more recent times, we may remember certain other individuals: administrative secretary Vincent Foster; CEO John E. Curtis; game show host Ray Combs; Navy admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda; rock musician Kurt Cobain; nutritionist Nathan Pritikin; model Wallis Franken Montana; actors Freddie Prinze, Herve Villechaize, and Mervin Good Eagle; author Michael Dorris; as well as Margaux Hemmingway, Sarah Deneas, and Carter Vanderbilt Cooper. Regardless of these better-known personalities, the lesser-known suicides of friends, acquaintances, and family members may bring this tragedy to our own lives.
More than 30,000 people choose to take their life each year in the United States, but the number is probably higher since some reported accidents are actually suicides—the so—called “hidden suicides.” About five times as many men take their lives as do women, but more women attempt it. Single, widowed, and divorced people are more likely to commit suicide than those who are married. While the suicide of young people is much discussed, apparently they are not much more likely to carry out the act than people in other age levels. However, this self-destruction of teens and young adults who have great potential in life is especially distressing. The suicide of older adults is also a growing problem. Medical professionals have a higher rate of suicide than the general population, with psychiatrists at the top of the list. Worldwide, there are at least 1,000 suicides each day. Every minute someone commits suicide on earth!
The Causes of Suicide
Why do so many people take their life? Each case is different, but certain factors in contemporary America contribute to this epidemic. Let us mention several of them:
- Evolutionary Theories. More people have concluded that we are simply highly developed animals, therefore we should have the “right” to kill ourselves. It is no different, in kind, than killing a cow, a mouse, or a cockroach! Since human life is not unique, destroying it is not that serious.
- Atheism and Agnosticism. While not many people are committed atheists, many are agnostics—claiming that they don’t know if God exists. If God does not exist and His will is not normative, what is to hinder one from committing suicide?
- Reincarnation. With Eastern and New Age religion growing, increased numbers of Americans believe that they will return to earth again in another form after death. Therefore, they choose to “start over again” if their present life becomes unfulfilling.
- Permissiveness and Relativism. For some decades now, the concept of absolute truth and morality has been increasingly eroded in the Western world. People now have become a law to themselves; self has become the sole criterion of right and wrong. One authority charges, “The permissiveness of modern society, which implies greater tolerance of deviant behavior, may be partly responsible for the increase in suicidal acts, especially self-poisoning by means of prescription drugs.”
- Drugs, Music, and Excitement. Drugs lead to addiction and this bondage leads to despair. Some simply chose to end it all through drug-induced ecstasy. Addicts may become mentally incoherent and destroy themselves through an overdose. One element of the music today includes a drive toward suicide. Researchers say that some conceive of suicide as a romantic way to end one’s life.
- Modern Media. The average young person has seen at least 17,000 violent deaths on television by the time of college. With violence and death so commonplace, suicide does not hold the natural dread it once did.
- Alcohol. A great number of suicides occur when people are intoxicated and cannot think clearly. Alcohol consumption can make life seem unbearably difficult and not worth living. Drunkenness is related to depression and this is a fatal combination that may lead some people to take their life.
- The Breakdown of the Family. Increased numbers of people have been born into single-parent homes, live through the divorce of their parents, or experience marital breakdown themselves. When they experience this kind of family trauma, life can become burdensome and suicide seems like the only way out.
- Hopelessness and Despair. Although some people think that the world is becoming better and better, others observe the crime, bloodshed, wars, disease, child abuse, drug abuse, and other ills of society and reason that there is no hope. “The individual, in seemingly hopeless conflict with the world, decides to end his or her existence in what amounts to a final temper tantrum against a society that can no longer be tolerated.” With God removed from the mind, they know of no answer—except suicide.
- Sickness and Disease. When a person becomes afflicted with a chronic or terminal illness, he may lose his will to live. He knows that his health is gone and he thinks that there is no reason to continue living. Sometimes constant pain eats away at his body. Under these circumstances, a person who has no fear of God may chose to take his life. The “assisted suicide” and euthanasia emphasis of recent years gives evidence of the increased acceptance of this form of self-destruction. The terminally-ill patient sees no reason to continue living in his debilitated and hopeless state.
- False Religion. Many of the churches today fail to take God or His word seriously. When someone commits suicide, the pastor may assure the bereaved that the deceased person is in a “better place.” Further, since some churches teach that one may still go to heaven after living a life of sin or dying in unrepentance, many people think that suicide will simply be a quicker way to go to heaven.
- Personal Problems. As we earlier mentioned, each of us has problems in life but some do have many more than others. Sometimes these can become so burdensome that suicide seems like a convenient way to escape them. Taking one’s life, therefore, is a way of escapism for numerous people who do not know of ways to resolve seemingly insurmountable disappointments and difficulties.
The Amazing Truth
We have noticed that many people do attempt to take their life and some of these succeed. We have also examined some of the many causes that contribute to this present problem. In nearly all of the cases of suicide (except perhaps those of committed atheists), it is safe to say that people deceive themselves or are deceived by others in one important respect: They convince themselves that they are escaping earthly problems and entering a more desirable destination.
In our contemporary age, certain cults have been convinced that suicide will enable them to escape undesirable conditions in life. We may remember Jim Jones and his 914 followers, most of whom killed themselves by consuming a drink laced with cyanide. We may also recall the Heaven’s Gate tragedy in California as well as the Order of the Solar Temple in Quebec, Switzerland, and France. The suicide/murder pact of the Jews at Masada in AD 73 is another well-known incident of people in the past who probably thought that their self-destruction would lead to future bliss.
All of these assumed that suicide would bring something desirable in their future. Most suicides are not as well publicized but surely most perpetrators believe their future, after suicide, will be more pleasant than the present. If the truth that we are about to discover were borne in mind by all, it is difficult to conceive how most people could take their life.
What is this truth? It is this. When someone takes his life, he may escape an earthly life of misery—but, in leaving his present distress, he enters a misery that is beyond comprehension! He leaves a misery that is limited in magnitude and time and enters an overwhelming misery that is incredibly worse and will last forever!
God is not silent about such an important theme as one’s eternal destiny. Since God is loving, He has revealed His truth through His own revelation. Primarily this comes to us in a special way through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose truth is made known in God’s written word which we know as the Bible. “But what does the Bible say about suicide?” you may ask. Let us consider this important question.
Life after Suicide?
Some people who take their life imagine that they will simply cease to exist after they die. With their evolutionary presuppositions, they think that they are like a dog or cat and will simply be no more after death. Others believe that they will immediately be reborn as another person somewhere on earth. Reincarnation, however, is simply not true but is the unfounded teaching of Eastern religions. Still others suppose that nearly everyone who dies will enter a special “heaven” of popular imagination. Recent surveys reveal that most Americans assume that they will enter some form of “heaven” after death even if they have not followed Christ or made God their priority. These and other views are far short of the truth!
God reveals to us that sin is the human predicament. Sin is any thought, attitude, word or deed that violates the will of God our Creator. Even in this life, sin brings spiritual death and separation from a righteous and holy God. “You were dead in your trespasses and sins,” writes Paul the apostle (Ephesians 2:1). But sin not only brings misery and alienation from God now, it also brings condemnation in the life to come. “The wages of sin is death,” is the divine verdict (Romans 6:23a). Along with spiritual death, those who die in sin will experience the righteous anger of a holy God. After listing various sins common in the world, Paul writes, “It is because of these things [sins] that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:5-6; cf. Ephesians 5:3-6).
Unless our sins are forgiven in this life, we will need to face God’s dreadful wrath and judgment after death. Instead of there being a “second chance” after death, or a further opportunity to seek forgiveness, or another life on this earth through reincarnation, death will end all opportunities to change and experience God’s forgiveness. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Let us consider suicide specifically at this point. The word of God says, “You know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15b). Have you ever considered that suicide is actually “self-murder”? When one kills himself he commits self-murder! When someone takes his own life, he murders himself! And the Bible clearly says that a murderer does not have “eternal life abiding in him.” Does the person who kills himself go to a beautiful place of peace, happiness, pleasure, and eternal life? No, a person who destroys his earthly, physical life does not have this to look forward to!
This fact is brought out in many other places of Scripture. Consider, for example, Revelation 21:8: “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Apply this to the one who destroys himself. Often the suicidal person is cowardly and unwilling to face the difficulties of life. He is unbelieving since he is unwilling to place his faith in God who will help him bear his burdens. Obviously he is a murderer since he kills himself. He is also an idolater since the act of suicide is considered one of the most self-oriented sins there are. We can see, therefore, that suicide indeed is a sin of great magnitude in God’s sight.
Let us consider now how serious it is to take one’s life. Notice these brief points:
- Suicide violates the command of God. God clearly said, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). The Lord Jesus also repeated this command (Matthew 19:18). One who murders himself or herself violates this basic command of the Lord.
- Suicide destroys the image of God. You will remember that we are made in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). One who killed another person was to be killed himself since the victim was in God’s image (Genesis 9:6). To take one’s own life is to destroy God’s image and what He considers especially precious.
- Suicide is caused by the sin of pride. Pride makes a person want to take the prerogatives of God. God the creator gives life: “He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things. . . . in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:25b,28a). Only God can give life; only He has a right to take life. It is prideful to choose to take the life that God has given.
- Suicide is the sin of theft. God is our Creator—not we ourselves (Psalm 100:3). We are His offspring through creation (Acts 17:28b-29). God declares, “All souls are Mine” (Ezekiel 18:4a). When we take our life, we are taking something that does not belong to us but belongs to God! “Will a man rob God?” (Malachi 3:8a).
- Suicide is the sin of selfishness. It has been said that the basic nature of sin is selfishness. It is placing self first—before God and others. When a person takes her life, she is thinking primarily of herself, her needs, her desires, her choice. One California woman left a suicide note, “Dearest, what can I say? This is the most selfish act of my life. . . .” The person who takes her life does not think of the hurt of others, the needs of others, or the will of God. Her will, her desires, her problems, her very self is exalted to the chief consideration.
- Suicide manifests a lack of love. The greatest command is to love God and the second command is to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Jesus said that if one loves he will have eternal life (Luke10:25,28) and John said likewise (1 John 3:14). In contrast, to not love is to be “accursed” or judged by God (1 Corinthians 16:22). Now, how can one love God when he plainly disobeys Him by taking his life? How can one love others when he plainly brings grief into their life through his self-destruction? How can one love when he refuses to live his life in outgoing care and concern for the needs of others?
- Suicide is an act of unbelief. God has promised to care for those who are His through Christ Jesus (Matthew 6:25-33). Even if we must suffer in this life, we will inherit eternal life. Do we believe this? If we do not, then we may express our lack of faith by taking our life. Conversely, if we trust God, we will be willing to persevere through life’s difficulties, because “the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
- Suicide is an act of resentment and revenge. Some of us do encounter especially difficult times in life. Chronic illness, marital tragedy, family alienation, and unending poverty all bring sorrow with them. How do we respond? If we respond with bitterness against God who allowed these circumstances, we sin (Job 1:22). As twisted as the reasoning is, some seek revenge upon others who have hurt them by taking their own life. “The person symbolically obtains a final revenge on everything and everyone that have caused . . . feelings of depression.” God says that this vengeful attitude is sinful (Romans 12:17-21).
- Suicide is an act of manipulation. Some persons attempt suicide to force a friend or companion to do something that he or she would not otherwise do. White says it is “a last-ditch attempt to manipulate or control a situation.” Obviously, God does not want one to use his or her life to bargain with another to remain in a relationship or to coerce any other personal desire.
- From this we can see that when one takes his life, he is demonstrating a many-faceted sin. In the past, it has been considered “the crime of crimes, the shame of shames.” But there is a special way that suicide is especially tragic. Let us explain.
What is the Tragedy of Suicide?
Before we discuss the tragedy of suicide, we should remind ourselves of the good news. The good news is that God is able to forgive you and everyone else who seeks His gracious forgiveness for their sins. God is a forgiving God who longs to forgive all who come to Him in repentance! He is “good, and ready to forgive” (Psalm 86:5a).
God forgives—but this forgiveness is conditional. God will forgive anyone who is willing to repent of his sins and express this repentance as He has commanded. For the one who has never come to Christ in faith, Peter declared, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The sin-burdened person who seeks forgiveness need only renounce his sins, place his absolute faith in the crucified and risen Christ, and be baptized into Christ (Acts 3:19; 16:31-34; 22:16; Romans 3:24-26; 6:3-7; 10:9-10).
The person who has already come to Christ and been forgiven in the past also needs to repent of his sins if he seeks continued forgiveness. Peter said to one who had already believed in Christ and been baptized, “Repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). All sin—including immorality, theft, pride, lust, greed, materialism, selfishness, foolishness, and every other sin—may be completely forgiven: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
If forgiveness of sins is the good news of God, what is the tragedy of suicide to which we alluded? The tragedy of suicide is that the person who takes his life cannot repent of his sin. There is no opportunity to repent of the heinous sin of self-murder! We have already seen that after death comes the judgment—not a second chance to repent and make things right (Hebrews 9:27). Remember too that repentance is not simply sorrow and regret. Instead, repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of life. Even if one should survive for an hour or two after an attempt of suicide, generally his or her mind is so clouded by drugs or pain that the mental clarity needed for repentance is absent. Furthermore, remember that suicide manifests a heart of many sins, some of which we have earlier mentioned (pride, selfishness, lack of love, unbelief, disobedience, theft, resentment, and revenge). Therefore, one must repent of the broad spectrum of sin to be forgiven.
Thus the tragedy is that one who takes his or her life effectively closes the door to repentance. The opportunity to change one’s mind and purpose is past, the opportunity to place one’s faith in Christ is past, and the opportunity to express one’s faith in Christ by being baptized is also past. Just as sad, the opportunity to live a meaningful life for Jesus on earth is past. We can see in some measure why nearly everyone in the past agreed that suicide ends one’s opportunity to be saved. While some liberal religionists today see this matter differently, Scripture still reveals the dreadful finality of taking one’s life. God says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
The Deception of Self-Destruction
When people choose to destroy themselves, they may vainly assume that they are leaving their problems, sickness, loneliness, and pain. One person who attempted suicide was asked, “What would it be like to be dead?” The pathetic answer was: “Peace. I’ll be at peace when I die.” Another person replied to the same question, “Just nothing. Nothing at all.” A third person was asked what made him attempt to take his life. He answered, “I don’t know. Maybe there is a heaven. Maybe it’ll be better there. Who knows?” Are these accurate assessments of death and the after-life?
The truth is that, rather than escaping trials and problems, taking one’s life merely introduces unimagined agony! The word of God says that the unrepentant person who dies will experience the “wrath and indignation” of God, and there will be “tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil” (Romans 2:8-9). Furthermore, “because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).
This is illustrated in the account of the rich man who died. Jesus tells us of a rich man who lived his life in affluence and pleasure. What happened when he died? Did he go to a place of peace and contentment, of sensual pleasures, and of freedom from emotional and physical pain? No, the reverse was the case. Scripture says that “in Hades [the realm of the dead] he lifted up his eyes, being in torment” (Luke 16:23). The tormented man now cried out, “I am in agony in this flame” (v. 24). Jesus went on to say that nothing that the man could do would be able to reverse his condition. He would never find relief from his agony; he would never be released from his alienation from God (vv. 25-26).
In our day, unbelieving groups that promote suicide convince people that taking their life will mean relief from suffering and pain. Some would claim that they enter a state of non-existence. Others would assure us that they enter into eternal rest and peace. One sick woman who took her life under new liberal state laws stated on a tape, “I’m looking forward to it. I will be relieved of all the stress I have.” A relative said of this suicide, “We felt it went very nicely, very peacefully, and it was certainly satisfactory as far as helping someone who wanted to go.” This shows how deceptive suicide can be. Instead of leaving stress, the unrepentant sinner who takes her life will enter everlasting punishment and agony. Scripture warns us: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
Suicide is not the answer. It simply increases and prolongs the anguish—without any end to it! This is why we can say that suicide is deceptive:
- Instead of leaving pain, one begins an eternity of pain.
- Instead of leaving hopelessness, one enters eternity without hope.
- Instead of leaving loneliness, one will be alone forever.
- Instead of leaving unfulfillment, one enters an eternity without fulfillment.
- Instead of leaving affliction and sickness, one enters a state of unending affliction and anguish.
- Instead of leaving shame, he enters eternal shame and contempt.
Suicide, therefore, represents self-deception in the extreme. One is deceived by the media. He is deceived by relativistic educators. He is deceived by atheistic and evolutionary writers. He is deceived by confused talk show hosts and guests. He is deceived by New Age teachers, Eastern gurus, and false teachers within fallen Christendom. He is ultimately deceived by Satan, the enemy of our souls.
In the Bible, we read that King Saul killed himself after he lived in unrepentant sin and was wounded in battle (1 Samuel 31:4). Judas Iscariot killed himself after he betrayed Jesus the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 27:3-5). It has been pointed out that all of the seven suicides in the Bible “were fostered by some evil against God without exception.” When one gives up on God and takes his life into his own hands, he may go so far as to destroy himself. In doing this, he deceives himself. As Erwin Lutzer puts it, “One minute after you slip behind the parted curtain [of death], you will either be enjoying a personal welcome from Christ or catching your first glimpse of gloom as you have never known it. Either way, your future will be irrevocably fixed and eternally unchangeable.”
Not only will the self-murderer go to an eternity of loss, he also misses out on awesome privileges and opportunities in this life. Never in eternity will a person have the kind of privileges available now, in this present earthly life. Suicide ends one’s opportunity:
- To serve God in this life.
- To bless others, including family and friends.
- To repent and turn from sin.
- To overcome the world and Satan.
- To enjoy the rich blessings of God in this life.
- To partake of earthly and natural blessings.
- To prepare now to meet God in the future.
- To share with others the blessings of forgiveness.
- To suffer persecution and affliction for Jesus.
- These opportunities in this life, on this earth, are lost when one decides to take his or her own life.
Christ Will Help Bear Your Burdens
We cannot minimize the heart-wrenching problems and difficulties that life sometimes brings to us. It does seem like some face seemingly insurmountable perplexities and burdens. For His own purposes, God may not choose to remove all of these from us. However, if we belong to Him and have a saving relationship with Him, we can be assured that He will help us to endure our problems.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). You are invited to cast “all your anxiety on Him [God], because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). We have the blessed assurance: “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). These are part of God’s “precious and magnificent promises” to us who are His dear children (2 Peter 1:4).
One further promise is especially important for the Christian who is tempted to escape his problems: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God will work in even the most difficult of circumstances if we are called by Him to be His children and if we truly love Him.
Regardless of the problems you are encountering that may tempt you to take your life, you can be assured that God is greater than any problem you may have!
(1) Loneliness. A chief factor in suicide is the feeling that we are all alone; no one is there to interact with and relate with. However, James writes, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8a). The faithful child of God knows that His promise is reliable: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b). God wants to fill the void in your life with His own comforting presence.
(2) Sense of Guilt. Some people feel that they have ruined their life. They have been enslaved to drugs. They have lost their virginity. They have been sentenced to prison. They have shamed their family. The psalm writer felt the guilt of sin when he penned these words: “My iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they weigh too much for me” (Psalm 38:4). However, God can forgive those sins through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. You will be able to say, with David, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD will not take into account” (Romans 4:7-8).
(3) Fear. You may face many fears in life. Fear of crime. Fear of disease and pain. Fear of poverty. Fear of the future. Someone puts it this way: “Suicide comes when living holds more fear and anxiety for a person than death.” Instead of fear, we must have faith. Repeatedly, the Lord said, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 12:32; Rev. 1:17). Instead, He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). If God is your Father and if Jesus is your Savior and Lord, you need not fear what now exists and what will come in the future.
(4) Desire for Revenge. When some people commit suicide, they desire to bring grief, shame, and guilt to remaining friends and family. One may deliberately take her life to cause these negative reactions in others. Suicide notes say, “Now you’ll be sorry for what you did” or “It’s all your fault.” The Christian is released from these negative and hurtful attitudes. He can be filled with love, mercy, compassion, kindness, and gentleness (Colossians 3:12-15). Instead of taking his own revenge, he allows God to exercise any vengeance that is needed. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. . . . Never take your own revenge, beloved” (Romans 12:17a,19a).
(5) Hatred. Those who study this subject believe that hatred is an underlying cause of some suicide. It is an attempt to kill the object of one’s hatred by killing oneself instead. However true this is, we know that a genuine love that seeks the highest good of another will eliminate this negative attitude. Reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 will show how true love is demonstrated. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to love not only our closest friends but even our enemies (Galatians 5:22; Luke 6:27-28).
(6) Physical Pain. Bodily pain may come to us through birth defects, through a terrible accident, through cancer, and through various other avenues. Life may bring months or years of seemingly unending pain. While medications may help, even these have their side effects and limitations. Pain, therefore, can cause some people to want to “end it all” and “go to a better place.” It is well to anticipate a better land where there will be no pain, but God will give the grace to endure whatever comes even now. God can use all things in his plan—even dreadful pain (Romans 8:17-18, 28-30). If we are willing to endure to the end (Mark 13:13), we can look forward to a glorified, redeemed body and a place where there will no longer be “mourning, or crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:4; cf. Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:35-57).
(7) Loss of a Significant Person. If a spouse we have lived with for thirty, forty, or fifty years dies, it is understandable that we experience grief. Further, if we lose a beloved companion when he or she deserts us for another person, we can see that there will be heart-rending sorrow because of the loss. Parents die, children die, friends move away, relationships are broken. No human relation-ship is perfectly secure. When someone near to us departs or dies, perhaps the only meaningful fellowship we have vanishes. Here we must force our mind to overcome our emotions. If we destroy our life, we will never go to be with a departed mate or loved one who is taken. If we kill ourselves, it will not restore someone who has deserted us. If, in fact, our mate died in faithfulness to the Lord, the only way to be with him or her in eternity is to faithfully live for the Lord ourselves while here. Allowing our emotions to force us to suicide will ruin any possibility of redeeming our loss. Remember also that our closest companion must be Jesus who promised to be with us forever (Matthew 28:18).
(8) Worry and Anxiety. We are living in an age of worry. We worry about how to pay bills, how to find success on the job, how to develop friendships, how to deal with rebellious children, how to reconcile relationships, how to deal with health concerns, and how to pay for mounting medical bills. God will not necessarily remove all of the negative factors of our lives, but He does promise to be there to help us with them. Jesus said, “Do not be anxious for your life. . . . Do not be anxious for tomorrow” (Matthew 6:25,34). We have a Heavenly Father who wants us to first of all seek Him, His righteousness, and His kingdom—and not allow the worry of the world to crowd out these spiritual realities (v. 33; cf. Mark 4:18-19).
(9) Depression. Depressed teens are much more prone to suicide than those who show no symptoms of depression. This is true of the population as a whole. This is the attitude that says life is hopeless. The future is dim and holds nothing exciting and nothing better. It is a state of despair. It is the feeling that says, “What is the use of going on? I hate my life. Nothing is enjoyable anymore. Life simply isn’t worth living.” In place of this perspective, the Christian who is filled with the Spirit is able to face life with confidence. Even in the worst of situations, the believer is able to overcome. Paul himself had times of terrible difficulties (2 Corinthians 1:8; 2:13; 7:5), but he was able to say that God “comforts the depressed” (7:6-7) and that God is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (1:3; cf. vv. 4-7). He may use His written Word to comfort us (Romans 15:4), or He may send a brother in the Lord to comfort us (2 Corinthians 7:6-7), or some other means. God can definitely help us during these times of depression (4:8-10).
(10) Escapism. When we don’t like our present circumstances, we may try to escape them. Many people use the television or computer as their means of escaping from reality. Others use alcohol, drugs, music or sports to escape the pains of daily life. Still others go so far as to take their own life in order to leave their problems and hurts behind. One writer claims, “Suicide expresses not so much a desire to die as a desperate attempt to get away from the pain of living.” We have already noticed that rather than escaping distress through suicide, one actually compounds his distress—a never-ending distress. God knows that some of us face overwhelming difficulties in life that defy solution. He has provided us with the privilege of prayer so that we will be able to endure these problems and overcome them (cf. Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 3:15-16; Ephesians 5:20). He will give us the wisdom to deal with our struggles rather than relying on the avenue of escape from them that in the end is no escape at all (James 1:5-8).
(11) Hardship and Distress. Sometimes so many troubles come into a person’s life all at once that he is left in a state of shock and bewilderment. Sometimes grief and disappointments in life continue for months or years and we see no alleviation. God wants to walk with you through these times. He wants to help you persevere through your trials. Some of these may be necessary for Paul writes, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; cf. 2 Tim. 3:12). As John Waddey has said, “No matter now heavy the burdens, how dark the night, nor how intense the pain, let us promptly and resolutely reject the very idea of suicide. It is in no wise an option for the child of God who wants to live with God in eternity.” God promises to be with us and help us endure through our difficult times (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 1 Peter 5:10).
Focusing Our Heart on God
The one who wishes to destroy himself is focusing his attention on himself, his problems, his pain, and his present life. This focus can only be defeating and disastrous. We were not created to have life revolve around ourselves. Instead, God created us for Himself and His own purposes. We were made to glorify Him, love and obey Him, and serve Him eternally. This changed perspective is a key to overcoming suicidal inclinations and making our life fulfilling and satisfying.
God calls on us to turn from self-orientation to Christ and His purposes. We are no longer to live for ourselves but for Him who died and rose again for us (2 Corinthians 5:15). We must turn from every idol we have created (whatever we have exalted before God) to serve the God who has created us (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). We must renounce every known sin that has caused our alienation from God and must begin to live wholly for the Lord (1 Peter 4:2).
In short, if we would find spiritual, emotional, and mental wholeness, we must begin to live our life the way God has designed. We must live a life centered on Jesus Christ, one that is entirely given over to the will and ways of God. We must renounce a self-focus and begin to focus our thought, our heart, and our entire life in the God who has created us.
New Life for You
As we leave a life that is centered on self, God promises to conform our lives to His own likeness. He promises to give us an abundant life that will never end (John 10:10; 1 John 5:11-13). Suicide has been called “the cry for help.” The suicidal person should know that help is indeed offered by God who is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He will help the self-destructive person to deal with his present perplexities and future adversities.
How can God do this? He does it through Christ Jesus. In an amazing act of love, God gave His dear Son to bear our sins on the cross. He raised Him from the grave so that we might have a living Savior and Lord! God the Father now offers us the blessing of forgiveness through the death of Christ on our behalf (1 John 4:9-10; John 3:16; Romans 5:6-11). If you have responded to the Lord in faith and repentance, expressed in baptism, you have certain assets or blessings that will enable you to face and overcome the disappointments and difficulties of life. He will give what our heart needs:
- For your weariness, Jesus gives rest (Matt. 11:29-30).
- For your despair, Jesus gives hope (Col. 1:27).
- For your dreadful sins, Jesus gives forgiveness (Matt. 26:28).
- For your old life of failure, Jesus gives a new life (2 Cor. 5:17).
- For your sorrow, Jesus gives joy (John 15:11).
- For your worry and anxiety, Jesus gives peace (John 14:27).
- For your suffering and rejection, Jesus gives full acceptance (Rom. 15:7).
- For your sickness and pain, Jesus gives grace and assurance of total wholeness in the life to come (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Rev. 21:4).
- For your afflictions, Jesus gives comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-5).
- For your loneliness, Jesus gives His wonderful friendship (John 15:13-15).
- We can understand how the song writer could express new life in Christ with these words:
Something beautiful, something good;
All my confusion He understood;
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife,
But He made something beautiful of my life.
Have you found confusion, brokenness, and strife in your own life? You can find alleviation from these conditions that would lead to self-destructive desires. If you have considered taking your own life through suicide, be assured that this is not God’s will for you. You cannot escape your problems in this way. You will merely compound your grief and agony through eternal ages. Instead of death, choose life! Come to Christ who offers you true life now and the blessings of eternal life to come!
Practical Directives in Dealing With
Your Suicidal Thoughts
Consider the following points as you deal with your own problems and any inclination you have toward taking your life.
(1) Review the contents of this pamphlet very carefully. Look up the Scriptural passages and consider them. (You may also wish to read the complete book version mentioned later.)
(2) Make sure that you have a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ and that you understand the provisions He has given to you in life and in the life to come (Romans 5:1-11,21).
(3) List the spiritual reasons why you should face your problems (Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18) and list the spiritual consequences of destroying your life (1 John 3:14-15; Revelation 21:8).
(4) Discuss your concerns with a trusted, mature, and knowledgeable Christian friend (Hebrews 3:12-13).
(5) Pray for the strength to do what God would want you to do about solving your problems. Ask for strength keep from yielding to Satan’s desires to kill yourself and seal your condemnation (Ephesians 6:10-13; James 4:7).
(6) Seek help, refuge, and encouragement in a warm, caring, and Scriptural body of believers (1 Corinthians 12:27).
(7) Begin to direct your thoughts away from yourself to God and others. This redirection will help to put your problems in better perspective and will show you what is of greatest concern and value (Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8; Matthew 25:34-46).
(8) As you continue through life, cultivate a supreme love for God (Mark 12:30), a fear of God (Proverbs 16:6b), and an absolute trust in God (John 14:1).
If you have a friend or family member who has considered taking his or her life, you may be a blessing to that person by sharing the truths we have been discussing. First, make sure of your own relationship with the living God. Then, point out to your friend that suicide is not a rational answer; it will only bring never-ending agony and hopelessness. Share the fact that God loves and cares for your friend and will help him or her to deal with the struggles of life. God will help to bear those seemingly unbearable burdens. He will forgive those weighty sins. He will give meaning and purpose to life. And He will give unimaginable blessings in the life to come. Direct your friend or family member from death to Christ who said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).