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Noble: Living in a messy world; God understands suicide, so help—don’t judge!

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.

Photo: King Saul takes his own life after a military defeat.

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.

Photo: Job talks to God during his biblical trials.

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.

Photo: A depiction of a hanging Judas Iscariot after he betrayed Jesus.

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.”

About Noble Philip

Noble Philip
Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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59 comments

  1. Is the suggestion Lasana that suicide maybe part of God’s plan for a person’s life?

  2. Word from author, Noble Philip: Depression is not the sole cause of suicide. This is why the Bible’s telling of suicide is so nuanced.

    Samson is a particularly interesting situation in that in his death, he fulfilled the original plan that God had for him: to reduce the hold of the Philistines on his people. But he went a long road around to get to there (other women and Delilah). Interestingly, his own people betrayed him after consultation with the Philistines (Judges 15). He agreed to be given up to the Philistines on the condition that he was not killed. He then brutalized the enemy. But he still never learnt. He asked for strength, God gave him and he pulled down the house. So he fulfilled God’s purpose in a very difficult way…like so many of us. We come to God after a torturous route. We nah easy.

    The lesson for me: keep quiet when we are not sure what exactly is God’s will for someone else. Do not be like Job’s friends. We could be like Job and quarrel with God, that is alright. He understands and will respond, even if He does not defend His actions. Check it out.

  3. Excellent insightful article… many thanks..

  4. This might be a touch off topic but was Samson the equivalent of a modern suicide bomber?

    • Steups! Samson sacrificed his life for the sake of his people. The Philistines were the enemies of the Israelites, Samson was the judge of the Israelites for 20 years. It was not a selfish act that Samson committed, for it was not a clear cut act of suicide because he was depressed. He gave his life for the sake of his people. You know, Lasana, for someone who has just been elected Vice President of MATT, your critical reading skills leave much to be desired. I’m not insulting you out of anger you know, I’m doing so out of annoyance. In fact, it’s not an insult, it’s a fact. You and others like yourself are supposed to understand full well the dynamics of war. You always cancel your enemy. Or maybe you just refuse to acknowledge the dynamics of it. Journalism isn’t about entertaining crap by the way, it’s about keeping the public informed.

      • Noble Philip

        Depression is not the sole cause of suicide. This is why the Bible’s telling of suicide is so nuanced.

        Samson is a particularly interesting situation in that in his death, he fulfilled the original plan that God had for him: to reduce the hold of the Philistines on his people. But he went a long road around to get to there (other women and Delilah). Interestingly, his own people betrayed him after consultation with the Philistines (Judges 15). He agreed to be given up to the Philistines on the condition that he was not killed. He then brutalized the enemy. But he still never learnt. He asked for strength, God gave him and he pulled down the house. So he fulfilled God’s purpose in a very difficult way…like so many of us. We come to God after a torturous route. We nah easy.

        The lesson for me: keep quiet when we are not sure what exactly is God’s will for someone else. Do not be like Job’s friends. We could be like Job and quarrel with God, that is alright. He understands and will respond, even if He does not defend His actions. Check it out.

    • How could God allow this? And how could God do that to people and children? Well why the hell did those people and children attack God’s people? Why not pose that question? How on earth did it enter your head to consider Samson as a suicide bomber? After a while the discussion has to stop, and a conclusion reached. You can’t keep going around in bloody circles and talking talking talking. Reach a bloody conclusion. But the problem with this increasingly secular society, is that no one wants to reach a conclusion, because then they would have to face that they have the wrong ideas and do things the wrong way.

    • If I were among the Israelites, I’d thank God for wiping out the Philistines, for it means that we could live in peace for a while.

    • That’s interesting. The article clearly gives an emphatic appeal to the use of reason within the restrictions of religious rules. Sympathizers with religious extremism drives some to suicide bombings. Suicide bombers believe that they are religiously justified. The predominance of murder-suicide is more strongly associated with extremism in Islam but it’s on account of a change in the way religious texts are interpreted. I wonder what are the effects of shifts in religious interpretations on the incidence of and acceptance of ‘sins’ such as suicide. Fascinating stuff.

    • Akilah Holder and I assume you think that Muslim suicide bombers are depressed or selfish? Tell me how a Christian war and a Muslim war are so different. Wow me with your superior analytical skills.
      And don’t forget to report me to MATT.

    • Funny that you think the idea of ‘taking as many down as possible with you’ is such a complex thing that needed three or four messages to explain.

    • There is no need to report you to MATT, since birds of a feather flock together. I expect your peers to be as foolish as yourself since they all appear to support the secular agenda. But Muslim suicide bombers are misguided, hell bound and commit those acts out of wickedness. The Judeo-Christian God’s acts are always righteous. He takes action, whatever form, so that good may come. And of course I had to explain my point. I don’t see the problem there. I had to explain why Samson took down all those Philistines. You wanted me to say “he was right to do so” and then not explain. That would be really poor explanatory skills.

    • Of course they are. They are most certainly not sane.

    • So an act from one side is goodly because it is done under the right banner and a similar act from the other side is done out of wickedness because it was done under the wrong banner?
      And there concludes our lesson in critical thinking for the day. Thanks Akilah. It would make no sense to continue.

    • Lasana Liburd I done long time. The Bible tells me I become a fool if I continue to argue with one. And yes, that is exactly what I’m saying.

    • God bless you for your ability to spot a fool.

    • Indeed. I will say this however. Before I became a Christian, as a young child, in Sunday School, whenever our teachers read Bible stories to us, somehow, without much ado, I knew, as did the other children in my classes, that God was the good one. The stories read to us were always stories of good vs. evil, and when God and his people came out on top, it was a natural response, a natural human response I will say, to think to ourselves, “Yay! Go God!” Because in the end, he protected the good people, from the bad ones. That, I think, for me and the other children with me, was a normal, natural, human response, to see God as good and loving, a protector to those who trust in him. So I always say, anyone who sees those stories in a different light, and paint God as bad, I always say something is wrong with them. Because it’s simple logic, God protected his people from their enemies. Simple logic. He provided food in the stories when they needed it. He fed the poor, made the blind to see, healed the sick, made the lame to walk, and you and others have the audacity to question the goodness of God? To use the word the bible uses, is just wicked all yuh wicked, wicked because you’re seeing the truth, but still not acknowledging it. Nothing wrong with my logic and the logic of those who think like me yuh know, sth wrong with you and those who think like you. And like I said, yes, I am most certainly blessed in my ability to spot a fool, it means God has opened my eyes, and I am so grateful that he has.

    • Still for the benefit of any other readers, I’m not questioning the morality of the act of being a suicide bomber.
      Just whether the act of taking your own life and as many of the enemy as possible creates a parallel between taking down a temple with your own strength or walking into an enemy base strapped with C4.

    • Akilah Holder you don’t think the other side believes their god is pretty cool too? Would that be logical?
      Or does the other side think their god sucks?

    • Whether or not they think their God is real, he is not, and that is what makes the difference. And yes, I am asserting that the Muslim God is false.

    • Except the Judeo-Christian God is real. You are having this discussion in the context of Christianity as just another religious belief with no grounding in reality, so I understand your trail of thought. So while it is logical for them to believe the falsehoods they have been taught, they are wrong.

    • These people killed by suicide bombers aren’t killed in self defense. They are murdered. God is a God of purpose, he won’t kill you just like that. You’d have to give him reason to, like threatening his children.

    • And that’s the thing uh Lasana. God is love, indeed he is. But because he is a God of love, he must also ensure that justice is done. So what secularists like to label as wickedness, is justice.

    • Akilah Holder. If you were born in another country, or even the same country with different parents you would have had a different ‘truth’ whispered in your ear. You would have different ideas of justice, and who wears the ‘black’ hat. We are all brainwashed.

    • On the issue of Samson…don’t just look at the single act. Samson was so flawed it is painful…he just liked a kinda woman boy…The very kind he was told to stay away from. That he managed to kill himself while fulfilling his purpose, was more by chance than design…and he did not do it for virgins…so no…I do not see the ” suicide bomber” similarity.

    • Ucill Cambridge, did Judah ‘betray’ Samson and caused him to be captured by the Phillistines with the proviso that he be taken alive? And did God then return Samson’s strength while in the heart of the enemy camp?

    • There is a difference between annoyance and uncontrolled anger Jo Ann. Know that difference. There is also a difference between righteous indignation and uncontrolled anger. Sometimes you have to correct people, and in doing so, enlighten those who may be misguided by their false assertions. There is also a difference betweend being brainwashed and knowing the truth. Hope your life without God is working for you.

    • Akilah Holder No you don’t hope my life is working out. You make assumptions, insult, judge and preach in your posts. I’ve heard nothing loving or Godly in anything you have written so far.

    • Steups! Jo Ann, the truth will always offend. Over and out!

    • Lasana Liburd ..his hair grew back 😊

    • Lasana Liburd God can never sanction support or condone suicide.

    • Ucill Cambridge Unless the Pope decides to in the Catholic Church at least. There are a lot of ‘mortal sins’ that are now ‘not so much’.

    • Jo Ann the Catholics have not been Christian for centuries.

    • God will punish Catholics too? If you wanted to join a church these days what brand would you recommend? It’s tricky because most of them come with the promise that you will go to hell if you don’t choose wisely.

    • Whatever was sin in the beginning remains sin to the end…no matter what the Pope says.

    • Jo Ann I recommend any church that keeps God’s word. Simple.

    • ….and practices holiness.

    • Ucill Cambridge Didn’t a lot of things change when God sent Jesus to clarify them? Isn’t that the whole reason for the New Testament?

    • Ucill Cambridge. Corinthians explains most of it. Heavy focus on non judgement and love. I must have misunderstood.

    • Jo Ann I am not in an argument, you asked a question I asked for specifics you have not provided any, talk done.

    • Ucill Cambridge what argument? No worries. Shame discussions always end that way.

    • Jo Ann…tell me…what do you believe? When it comes to matters of God, in the most general way…what do you believe.

    • Ucill Cambridge I believe in the Golden rule that unites most of the religions of the world.

    • Ucill Cambridge, what I’m saying is it sounds like Samson was cleverly planted behind enemy lines with a purpose in mind. To kill as many Philistines as possible in a mission that he was never going to return from.
      And that got me thinking about suicide bombers. Maybe it isn’t a good analogy. It’s hardly scientific. But the objection to it can’t be once he did it waving a Christian banner it’s fine and if it’s waving a Muslim banner, it’s evil. That sounds… Off.
      To me anyway. But I’m really not trying to provoke anyone.

    • Lasana Liburd God favoured the Israelites. Simple. Samson was God’s chosen to defeat them Philistines. Every thing that God ordains must come to pass. Simple. I don’t think he was planted. If he had stuck to God’s plan he would not have ended up bald, blind and weak. That he eventually succeeded simply speaks to the fact that God’s will cannot be thwarted. Do it as he planned or take your own fatal route, is up to the individual, but the thing will be done. His. Will. Will. Be. Done.

    • Ucill okay. I’m no bible scholar. I explained my feeling as best as I could but I’m not saying I’m right and I sure ent an expert on this topic. Thanks

    • LasanaLiburd listen I understand your somewhat mischievous perspective and when you said it I did give it an ear, but it just did not ring true. God is strategic , but not underhand. If the plan was to plant Samson, he would have told him He would have told us. I know that for a fact because when he had to send the Darling of Heaven, Jesus, to earth to die, he told him. He told us. God is not sneaky.

  5. Earl Best

    “A Seeker, not a Saint,” says your profile, Noble.

    Seems you’re either seeking sainthood or susceptible to having it thrust upon you. Fine, fine work!

  6. Nicole Cowie

    This is the article I wish I had written on this issue, had I the time to do this week. It is so refreshing to see this perspective because as a Mental Health/Disability activist I have had to deal personally and also hear so many other people’s stories of being hurt by their religious leaders when they come to them with mental health issues.

    It would be ideal if religious leaders in Trinidad and Tobago were trained at least in Mental Health First Aid because in many cases, they are the first port of call for persons who are depressed and distressed. Here’s to hoping that this article furthers that discourse and hopefully down the line some concrete action will happen to help remedy this issue.

  7. Lasana Liburd I love this….this is the article I would have written this week but didn’t have the time….I am in awe of the depth and nuance of it…