by Gary P. Stewart
Some have described suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. From a Christian perspective, how¬ever, suicide is not permanent and solves nothing. Each individual is created in the image of God and is, therefore, an immortal being with responsibilities and accountability beyond the grave.
In reality, suicide is a selfish action taken against oneself in order to eliminate what is experienced as unrelenting pain. It is the tragic and lethal culmination of a psychological process that results from unresolved events that create depression and hopelessness. Someone who commits suicide often cannot see any hope that the future will be different than the painful past or present. People who end their lives are generally burdened by a number of unresolved events or problems that are mostly, if not always, resolvable. Without coping skills and without the help of friends, professional assistance, or loved ones, unresolved burdens grow heavier until the weight becomes unbearable and the individual is weakened to the point of despair. The problem is not that such despairing people want to die; it is that they do not know how to live.
The relatives and friends of the person who commits suicide are also victims. They must deal with loss, pain, and perhaps even guilt as a result of the suicide.
Suicides in the Bible
Samson’s death, recorded in Judges 16:28–30, occurred in association with an act of war that both avenged his humiliation at the hands of the Philistines and was accomplished with direct permission from God. Although Samson technically caused his own death, his selfless and contrite act is similar to those who, when facing an enemy, are willing to sacrifice their own lives for a cause that is greater than themselves. Samson’s choice to sacrifice his life is very different from the decision of those who choose to take their lives because of personal loss, disappointment, and despair.
There are six instances of suicide in the Bible, five in the Old Testament (excluding Samson) and one in the New Testament. The one suicide recorded in the New Testament was that of Judas Iscariot, who hanged himself after betraying Jesus (Matt. 27:5). Two of the suicides recorded in the Old Testament, those of Abimelech and Saul, occurred after each was seriously wounded in battle (Judg. 9:50–55; 1 Sam. 31:1–6). Ahithophel took his own life when Absalom did not receive his counsel (2 Sam. 17:23). Zimri, king of Israel, chose to burn his palace and kill himself rather than be captured by his enemies (1 Kin. 16:18).
It is important to note that none of these six suicides was viewed favorably or as a legitimate option, even in the most difficult of times.
The Biblical Response to Suicide
A biblical understanding of God and life inspires hope while it diminishes despair. Each human being will suffer whether a child of God or not. A believer’s knowledge and love for God gives hope that suffering is never without a purpose. So rather than curse or blame God for the troubles of life, we choose to live by faith in Him.
Too often in the church, believers are unresponsive to their brothers and sisters who struggle in their faith, and sometimes too busy to involve themselves in the lives of their neighbors. It is the responsibility of mature Christians to be sensitive to the needs of those around them and to gently encourage and support those who are struggling. In so doing, they assist others in carrying their burdens (Gal. 6:1–3) and so fulfill the law of Christ which is to love God and one’s neighbor (Matt. 22:37–40). The church can be a safe place where people can really talk about their problems, build trust, and learn from each other. Isolation, whether initiated by someone who is struggling or by those too busy to care, only heightens the possibility that thoughts about and attempts at suicide will occur.
When someone is struggling with despair or depression, and certainly when someone admits to having thoughts of taking his or her life, then professional help is needed. It is the responsibility of the caring friend to not carry that burden alone, but to take action to make sure that the friend gets help quickly.
Each of us plays a small, though vital, role in God’s comprehensive plan to redeem the world. As believers, we are images (reflections) of God’s will and character in a dark and depraved world. The more we understand and trust in the God of Scripture, the better we project faith, hope, and love to the world. The greater understanding each of us has of God and His will, the less despair each of us will experience in our lives.
An important element of faith is the knowledge or awareness that our understanding of God is incomplete. Knowing God intimately is a lifetime endeavor that includes both lows and highs emotionally and physically. We are spiritually, physically, and emotionally broken and wounded people living in a broken and wounded society. God is the mender no matter what the circumstances. As God told the people of Israel through His servant, Moses, “I have set before you life and death . . . therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days” (Deut. 30:19, 20).
Other passages to study about the issue of suicide include:
– Psalm 40:1–3; 119:116
– Proverbs 13:12
– Jeremiah 29:11
– Ephesians 1:15–21
To learn more see: The Soul Care Bible: Experiencing and Sharing Hope God’s Way by Executive Editor, Dr. Tim Clinton
This article is Copyright © 2001 by the American Association of Christian Counselors