“He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin…” (Titus 2:14a NLT)
Having wrestled with depression much of my adult life, I’ve seriously considered suicide as an option on more than one occasion. The insights and guidance of godly friends and professional Christian counselors have been helpful, but ultimately what saved my life was the grace of God. The Bible is now my constant companion and my closeness to the Lord is a second by second comfort, but it hasn’t always been that way.
As a Pastor for nearly forty years, I’ve counseled people suffering with the haunting thoughts of suicide and, unfortunately, had to officiate the funeral of one who took his own life. There’s been much debate as to why people choose the path of suicide and what the spiritual implications of that decision are.
Perhaps the most troubling question for the family and friends who are left behind is: “Am I to blame?” And the pressing question for many: “Will my loved one be in heaven?” We’ll look at the first question today and tackle the second question tomorrow.
The reality is – God alone knows the answer to those questions; however, I can say with reasonable assurance, a person who ends their own life has more issues than the trauma of a single event – i.e. an argument with a family member, friend, co-worker, etc. They likely have long-standing emotional issues with which they’ve dealt for years, which come to a head for any number of reasons, forcing a person to conclude they have no alternative.
Their minds are closed to reason and governed by fear, isolation and/or hopelessness, resulting in an irrational and self-destructive ending. However, most often the self-destruction has begun in a person’s life long before the actual event of their death. Addictions or chronic, unhealthy behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, depression, anger, sexual/pornography and others over time lower a person’s ability to see their behavior clearly, leading to confusion as to what’s real and what’s not. Right seems wrong and wrong becomes more easily seen as right, which can, in the best case, lead to asking for help, but too often results in permanent mental, physical or emotional damage and/or death.
Ironically, attempting suicide can actually be the proverbial “cry for help”, and sometimes is the first step on the road to recovery. Yet, the repercussions caused in the lives of the survivors of a suicide or even an attempt, are far beyond the scope of this brief article.
Let me address the first of the two most common questions.
“Am I to blame?” The short answer is a resounding “NO!” Those who commit suicide make the decision to take their own life, irrespective of and sometimes in defiance of the pleas of those who are key influencers in their lives and who are, most often, the ones urging them to “get help.” An argument may have ensued just prior to a person’s decision to end their life, or there may have been an on going “drama” that ultimately led to the person’s decision, but in the end, only one person made the choice to die at their own hand. Regardless of their often conflicted motives, the decision to choose life or death was theirs alone.
If you are considering taking your own life or know someone who is, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. or reach out to a trusted friend immediately.