God understands suicide. There are seven stories about suicide in the Bible, including Samson, seen as victorious, killing more in death than in life and finding his way into the Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11).
Suicide is a complicated story in the Bible. It is a short-circuiting of God’s plans and will but taking it to a point of eternal condemnation really finds root in the teachings of Augustine, not the Bible.
Is Saul’s suicide (mimicked by generals, like Publius, in the Grecian times) the same as Judas, who was full of remorse, being rebuffed by his co-conspirators? Unfortunately, neither man saw the beauty of a path beyond their seeming complete despair like Peter did. Suicide is akin to burning down your house to kill the nagging mosquito in your ears.
There are obvious consequences to living in a messy world and to simplify that is naïve. In every area, we see the effects of this mess. We live in brokenness. Our biggest problems come from brokenness and separation.
Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. That capacity can be negatively impacted by a messy world. But we have hope.
Mental illness ought not to be conflated with a spiritual struggle or a lack of faith in God. When a diabetic gets ‘salvation,’ his condition persists, and he still needs treatment. It is the same with depression, the leading cause of suicide and about which the Bible has a lot to say.
To condemn, either figuratively or literally, is to hold a transactional view of sin and grace, which is contrary to the love story of the Redemption. God loves us and that is not because of what we did or who we are. We cannot be ‘good enough’ to become worthy of this love.
How many of us have unconfessed sin at any given moment? How to treat those who die with unconfessed sin that we are not aware of? How did Lot become a righteous man in the New Testament?
Our enduring memory of him does not align to that image. Like Job the paragon protestor about living in an unfair world, we should hold our judgment. Job shook his hand at God when he said, “though He slays me, yet will I trust Him.” Some interpret this as wholesome faith, but the context is a heated battle between Job and God.
Job would not shut up but litigated his case. God is not upset with our quarrels with Him; He never seeks to defend Himself. We ought to be silent in these circumstances and remember that we all are dust.
The well-loved hymn, ‘There is a Fountain filled with Blood,’ was written by William Cowper, a man plagued with chronic severe depression. John Newton, his pastor, walked literal miles with him, never abandoning him as a lost cause nor succumbing to his gloomy pessimism. Cowper also wrote, “God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform…judge not the Lord by feeble sense but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.”
Pastor Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, committed suicide after a family dinner. Rick said subsequently, “In God’s garden of grace, even broken trees bear fruit.” The church is well acquainted with the pain of depression and suicide.
But the myth that ‘church people are perfect’ must be broken or we will continue to be set back. Our concept of manliness—how to deal with fear, loneliness and failure—has to be challenged. We are not the Rock other men need. It is not about praying more; we need to understand the role of medicine, brain chemistry and how to build relationships that go beyond ‘too blessed to be stressed’ platitudes.
Depression isolates but all of us have to persist in community inclusion. We should not compound but leave behind the whispering, the silence and the stigma.
Accept that God heals but still have the awkward conversation. Agitate for better medicine from CEDAP. Many among us are poor and cannot afford the medicines or professional help that can bring relief. We must change this situation if we truly care. We have to be supportive to the family by helping watch those at suicidal risk.
Suicide binds grief and trauma together, affecting all. We face great trauma when confronted by suicide since our loved one is the murderer. How do we resolve this pain? How do we help the survivors?
Talking kindly and encouraging dialogue can break the stigma and open the road to healthier living. The churches have to be places of safety, removing the shame and advocate for better mental health care. There is no room for pointing fingers. We all bear the pain. Accept that we all fail.
Romans 14:7 says, “None of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.”