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Christians Committing Suicide

I remember that call like it was yesterday. You know the call, the one where everything stops in your life. The call I am referring to was from a close friend of a church I was associated with for years. In that call he informed my wife and me that a dear friend, a pastor’s wife, had committed suicide.

This woman counseled couples for years. She and her pastor husband taught numerous classes on marriage and was one of the most beloved people in the church. In fact her memorial service had the most people of any funeral that I have ever attended.

What made matters even more jarring was that she bought a gun, came into her home while her husband was present and shot herself. The only clue of her despair was a cryptic note on a checkbook ledger that said sorry to her husband.

This was a woman who never lacked for words in any situation. She was a great listener but could also talk for hours giving great details on any subject. To have a one word comment, “sorry”, as the finality of her life, is extremely puzzling.

Years earlier I was at home and got another unforgettable call. I was a staff pastor and a lady called me who attended our church. She and her family lived close by and through shock and tears said her 17 year old son shot himself in his bedroom because of a breakup with a girl. One of the church secretaries, who also lived nearby, and myself went over to clean up the bloody mess after the boy’s body was taken away.

Just last year a pastor that was retired and I knew for decades also committed suicide (details unknown). This was a man who studied and knew the depths of the Christian faith. Yet that didn’t prevent this tragedy from occurring.

So the obvious question is why? Many theories abound, but I can tell you of two that are not the answers: courage or cowardice. I have heard numerous people tell me they would never have the courage to taking their life, while others simply judge and say what cowards those people are.

I am not a psychiatrist, but a pastor. I don’t know what reasons go through a person’s mind, but this much I do know, their pain was greater than their reasoning. Many times those family and friends left behind in tears and anger say “didn’t he know how this would affect us?” Of course if the person in pain was rational they would seek help. But when people, even Christians, are desperate, rationality goes out the window.

As a believer I instinctively went to the Scriptures to see if there was any insight. Truth be told, not much is there. There are five recorded acts of suicide: Saul, Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 31:4); Saul’s armor bearer (1 Samuel 31:5); Ahithophel, advisor to Absalom, David’s son (2 Samuel 17:23); Zimri, a king of Israel (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas, one of the twelve disciples (Matthew 27:5).

From the passages Ahithophel died of embarrassment because Absalom wouldn’t take his counsel. Judas died from shame over his betray of Jesus. Zimri had killed the previous king of Israel to become the king, but upon learning that the Israelite army was coming to capture him, he chose to commit suicide. Saul was already severely wounded from a battle with the Philistines, but told his armor bearer to finish him off lest the Philistines chose to humiliate him. When the armor bearer refused, Saul fell on his sword. Why then the armor bearer did the same thing, we have no reason.

You might say at this point there are clear reasons from Scripture why these men took this way out. Underlying the above mentioned statements, to me it boils down to having more emotional pain than a desire to live. Embarrassment, shame, and fear are the ultimate reasons these people took their lives.

Another issue that often comes up with Christians, is suicide tantamount to the unforgiveable sin? The Bible talks about an unpardonable sin, but that is called blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Suicide is not that! Some Christians might then think, “My life is horrible, I feel horrible, and if I commit suicide and know I am going to heaven, then why not?” The answer is God does not want that, you will shortchange what He wanted to do in your life, and you will cause loved ones to be devastated.

So here is my pastoral counsel. If you are contemplating suicide, immediately talk to a friend, pastor, or professional counselor. Research shows that most people wanting to commit suicide have a raging inner conflict. This conflict being I don’t want to take my life, but I feel so desperate. Talking to someone who you trust, can make the difference between life and death, your death.

We are a precious gift from God. As bad as life can be, the Lord will never forget those that belong to Him. This is the truth and as Jesus said, the truth sets us free.

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