No Apologizing

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

The hurt of suicide


This week was the first time that my life directly intersected with the hurt of suicide.  It will not be soon forgotten.  At first I wasn’t sure how to process what had actually happened.  As I slowly started to digest these events I came to the most inevitable question that those close to a suicide (or even who spectate from afar): Why?

Most will typically commit suicide because they feel there are no other solutions and no hope.  I found one description online saying that the reason could stem from either financial or personal (relational, low self-esteem) difficulties.  I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of hopelessness that one would have to feel to wake up one morning with the desire to end it all  – much less follow through with that desire (especially one that has a loving family).

Adding to the hurt of the act itself, is a frequent religious response to the act.  It is my understanding that the particular family impacted by this was Catholic.  This compounds the hurt because according to that religious tradition is the teaching that they are damned to Hell solely because of this decision.

There are two questions that need to be answered when discussing suicide, particularly of one who has claimed to be a Christian.

First, is suicide is a damnable (i.e. unforgiveable) sin in and of itself?  In other words, will a true Christian who commits suicide be barred from Heaven.  Second, is what does the Bible offer to those who are so hopeless and feel so helpless before the suicide ever happens?

Can suicide alone automatically condemn someone to Hell?

This is an issue that must be addressed due to the religious doctrine of the Catholic Church.  For hundreds of years they have created a stigma around suicide that it is a sin that will not be forgiven and thus anyone (Christian or not) who commits suicide will be sent to Hell.  There is no biblical support for this opinion.  To the contrary, there is ample evidence to support that once a Christian possess salvation, they have been absolved of all sin!  This would include the sins you have committed in the past, the sins you are committing now, and the sins you will commit in the future.  There are many scriptures that support this doctrine (Eternal Security/Perseverance of the Saints) let me briefly call out three:

Colossian 2:13-14:  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 

Notice the use of the word “all.”  It does not say that God forgave us of the sins we did commit only, but ALL sin that we have and will commit.  There is a finality to this verse that indicates that the sin we have and will commit was nailed to the cross.  As Jesus said…IT IS FINISHED!

Romans 8:38-39:  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  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.

If the Colossians verse does not do it for you then perhaps Romans 8 will.  Could Paul have been any more explicit?  Nothing can separate a Christian from God, NEITHER PRESENT NOR THE FUTURE!  Notice the Paul specifically mentions death.  Not even death is powerful enough to separate us from the Father and the Son.

Romans 8:1-2:  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Again Paul could not have been clearer.  As Christians we face no condemnation and are free from the law of sin (and death).  The outworking of the law Paul references here is the condemnation that we all would face from God were we not in Christ Jesus.  This ultimately results in spiritual death- eternal separation from God.

The final picture that is painted… Once we have accepted Jesus’ payment for our sin (which places us “in Christ”, we have been forgiven for them ALL, past present or future, we will not be condemned.  At the moment one is joined to Jesus in this way, there is nothing they can do to separate them from God.  Suicide, being a sin, cannot separate a Christian who commits that sin from God.

There is something else that needs to be discussed here and that is the stigma associated with Christians who commit suicide.  There are many would make the argument that “true” Christians cannot commit suicide.  The premise of this argument is that “true” Christians find their hope in Jesus.  1 Peter 1:13 tells us explicitly to set your hope on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  If a Christian has lost hope then it would appear that the only way it could be rationalized is that they never had hope, and were never really saved.

This thought process is a fundamental breakdown of the basic understanding of sin and the role it plays in our life.  If you conclude that suicide is a sin, then it must be considered in the same light as all sin.  We as Christians will still struggle with sin until we reach Heaven.

We are to strive to become more and more Christlike, but we will fail at different points in our life.  With that in mind one must conclude that there is NO difference between a Christian who lies, and a Christian who commits suicide, or a Christian who commits adultery in their heart and one who commits suicide.  In the eyes of God there is no difference.  James 2:10 states this as directly as possible “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”  In the eyes of God there is no difference between the one who commits suicide, and the one who lies about why they were late to work.  Many may scoff at this notion because in their eyes it may represent an extreme.  However, God does not  think like us  He deals in perfect judgment.  There is no difference in His perfect judgment between the two.

I believe the reason for this stigma is the finality of the sin.  In suicide we see the ultimate in finality.  It’s a permanent “solution” to a temporary problem.  We see the hurt caused to the family of someone who commits suicide.  The emotions involved, both anger and grief over the action are on full display.   The Bible states that there is only one sin that is unforgivable and that is the denial of the Holy Spirit (i.e. never believing in Christ – cf. John 3:18).  Nowhere does it mention that suicide is an unforgiveable sin.

What hope does the Bible offer?

Suicidal thoughts can end up enveloping someone just as quickly as adulterous thoughts do.  The Word of God is designed to offer instruction for life and comfort in our time of need, no matter the circumstances of that need.  Without exception, we all hit a time where we are depressed.  We hit a point where we believe nobody gets it.  We hit a point where we feel like we are alone on this planet.  As I write this I am reminded of the footprints in the sand poem.  What a simple but powerful demonstration of how God works in our lives.

Psalms is truly an incredible book in the Bible.  In it we get a candid look at the prayer life of David and others.  It includes bouts with depression.  Take for example Psalm 31:9-13: Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.  My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction,  and my bones grow weak. Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. For I hear many whispering ,  “Terror on every side!” They conspire against me and plot to take my life.

This is the reason that I love Psalms.  It is David being completely honest and open with God.  WHO HASN’T FELT THIS WAY?!  What we see in the book of Psalms is that David wasn’t afraid to say out loud everything that he was thinking:  All of the pain, all of the anguish, all of the anxiety, and all of the hurt.  But David always had one more thing to say with each passing moment that he was in aguish… he knew that God would sustain him.  Verse 14 of Psalm 31… “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ’You are my God.’”

1 Peter 5:6-7 sums up the Psalmists’ experiences in two verses:  “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may Exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.”

There are a number of verses that can help you in your time of need.

Psalm 9:9, 22:24, 27:4-5, 46:1, 56:8, 116:1-2

This is a great sampling from the direct and honest prayer of David.  These come from the depth of his soul as he cries out in anguish to God.

Finally, if you are reading this and you are thinking about suicide, or know someone that is, please call for help.  Call a pastor of a local Bible-believing church and speak with them. www.iamsecond.com can point you to one.  You should know that God loves you.  We are not talking about the kind of love that is fleeting, or abusive, or anything like that which may have exacerbated your present circumstances.  His love is perfect.  He will never abandon you.  He will always love you.  If you don’t have a relationship with God, know that He wants one with you.  Hebrews 13:5  – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

We are not talking religion, we are talking a personal one on one relationship with the creator-God of all of the universe.

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One response to “The hurt of suicide

  1. Aaron May 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Robert, I appreciate your attempt to explain the Catholic doctrines regarding suicide and the forgiveness of sins. I am Roman Catholic and am very familiar ( obviously more familiar than you) with the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Now I would like to explain to you the truth of the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

    First of all, the Church does not teach that committing suicide automatically damns one to Hell. The Church teaches that if one dies in a state of mortal sin, he will surely go to Hell. The conditions for a sin to be mortal are three: the sin must be grave, the one committing the sin must have full knowledge of the sin being grave, and the one committing the sin must give his full consent. The act of suicide is indeed a very grave sin, as it is a rejection of the greatest gift God has given us. He gave us all life, a life that is still His, and we are merely the stewards of this life. To commit suicide is to blatently tell God, “I do not want the life You have given me, take it back, and leave me alone.” It is a direct rejection of God’s love. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2283: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” Thus, God still provides a means for the sinner to repent of his sin. Also, the sinner can still repent of his sin as long as he is still alive, regardless if it is too late to stop the death. For instance, there are very few methods of suicide that cause death the instant the deed has been done.

    Secondly, the Catholic Church teaches that no sin is unforgiveable so long as the sinner repents of his sins. On the other hand if a person has accepted Christ and lives his life accordingly, and then throws it all out the window and commits a mortal sin, he has denied Christ’s salvation for his own gratification. In this case he is truly condemned, but by his own hand. He can however come back to the Lord, repent and confess his sins, and he shall be saved. If in the case that one has committed a mortal sin and has not the opportunity to obtain forgiveness via the sacrament of Reconciliation before he dies, but is indeed in perfect contrition for his sins, he shall be forgiven and thus he will be saved. Thus your quote of John 3:18 is relevant for those who unrepentingly deny Christ, but it does not mean that it will not be forgiven them if they do indeed repent.

    I would also like to comment on your use of the above scriptures. In Colossians 2:13-14 you show that Paul uses the word “all” to mean every sin we have, are, or ever will commit. If this is true then as long as you believe in the Lord Jesus as your Savior, you have obtained for yourself the eternal salvation promised you be the Lord, and regardless of any sin you may commit after the moment you accept Him are forgiven you with those you committed previous. However, the problem I see with this thought is that any one can accept Christ into his life and believe in Him, but he can still commit any sin he likes without repentance and without fear of losing his inheritence. This obviously also includes the sin you claim to be unforgiveable, namely denying completely the divinity and saving grace of Jesus Christ. This also brings to my mind the sudden thought of John 3:18 in the light you have shone on it. If any one who does not believe in Christ is truly condemned without hope of salvation and cannot be forgiven of that sin, how can one then come to be saved by believing in Him and having all his sins forgiven, simply by believing? Would his one sin of denial not be unforgiven? If this is the case, all his sins are not forgiven by belief in Christ.
    Romans 8:38-39 tells how nothing can seperate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Indeed you are right in this passage, however, it does not say anything about the forgiveness of sins in these verses, the previous or the following verses. Therefore the relevance of this passage in the argument of the forgiveness of all our sins is questionable. I admit that the love of God does indeed include the forgiveness of our sins, but even so Jesus did declare that we must repent (Matt. 4:17). Also, did He not tell His disciples whatever sins they forgive are forgiven them, and whatever sins they retain are retained? (John 20:23) Thus mere belief in Christ is not enough, but one must repent and receive absolution from an apostle or one of their successors, namely the “presbyters (fathers) of the church” (James 5:13-16), known today as “priests”.
    Romans 8:1-2 shows that the law of the Spirit has freed us from the law of sin and death. This does not show that all of our future sins are forgiven without need of our repentance of them. Instead it shows that through Christ’s death on the cross the Spirit now gives us the grace to overcome sin, and through His resurrection the Spirit now gives us life when we otherwise would surely have died.

    As for the comment of a true Christian, I do believe that a true Christian would not commit suicide, as like you had stated, our hope is in Christ. Unless the Christian performing such a deed is mentally incapable of the necessary level of comprehension and reason to recognize the evil of the deed, he has indeed given up on Christ as his hope and his life. Any true Christian would indeed avoid this end as he would try continuously to be more and more like Christ. Hence the name “Christian”. This would carry on throughout any persecutions and difficulties, as Christ did not give up hope at any time during His ministry, and encourages us to the same. Again, if the sin of suicide does not merit eternal consequences to any one unrepentant of the act, why don’t we all go ahead and commit suicide as soon as we become believers? This would be the quickest way to join our Lord in Heaven.

    Finally, I would just like to touch on your comment of suicidal thoughts entering our minds as easily as thoughts of adultery. This is indeed true, as we are all human and are therefore subject to concupiscence. However, simply because temptations arise easily in our minds, does not make it any more okay to perform the act. Some people do indeed suffer with thoughts of suicide, others suffer with thoughts of adultery, while others suffer with thoughts of mass murder. We each have our own cross to carry, but we need not carry it alone. Christ told us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt. 11:28,30) God allows us to be tempted by Satan, but He does not want us to give in. He allows us to be tempted in order to make us stronger. He gives us the grace to overcome any temptation that may come our way. Mother Teresa once said, “God will only give us what we can handle, he will do the rest.” He does allow only the suffering and the temptation that we can handle. He indeed takes all the rest and gives us the grace to overcome it all.

    I welcome any replies, as it will result in the growth of all of us in love of Jesus and His teachings. God bless.

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