High school. Monday morning. First day back from winter break. First class. I remember sitting at my desk when the principal came over the intercom. It was normal for him to start the day with announcements. But that morning he somberly informed us that Derek, my friend, had died. I remember the shock. My body convulsed involuntarily. The teacher noticed—I suspect all the faculty had been told to watch for reactions. She notified the school counselor and later that day I was called into the office. At first, I thought I was in trouble. I’d never seen a counselor before—hadn’t had any need. Then I realized they were checking on me to make certain I was okay.
They told me what happened—as much as they were willing to, at least. My friend—whom I’d always known to be happy and smiling— had committed suicide. He’d left a note. I never learned what it said. I never found out why he had done it. All I know is, to him, life was worth ending. He was wrong. Whatever his reason. He was wrong.
Sadly, he wasn’t the last. Since then, I’ve known many others who’ve taken their own lives. Some young. Some old. If today is an average day, one hundred thirty people will choose to make it their last day. It’s a tragic choice that leaves behind untold amounts of grief and unanswered questions. I don’t like it. The family members and friends left behind don’t like it. But what does God think about suicide?
The topic is not directly mentioned in the Bible. That is because there are some topics which are covered broadly and additional specifics are not needed. For example, adultery is wrong (Mt. 15:19). One does not need to add that adultery with a stranger is wrong or that adultery is wrong even if you’ve known the other person for a long time and really love them. That’s already been covered in the basic rule.
The same principle applies to suicide. Murder is wrong (Mt. 15:19; Rom. 1:29; I Pet. 4:15; I John 3:15; etc.). That covers a lot without needing additional clarification. For example, one does not need to add that murdering babies is wrong. That’s already covered. So is murdering oneself. That is, after all, what suicide means. It comes from the Latin meaning to slay oneself.
Suicide goes against some very basic and very important Biblical principles. For example, the instructions on how a husband is to treat his wife is undermined by suicide. “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28). In a similar way, suicide goes against the second greatest commandment. The Scriptures does not say, “love your neighbor” and stop there. We are told to what degree we must love our neighbors. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39). When we are willing to take our own lives, we have undermined the core of God’s will for all of us.
If that was not enough to convince us, we could look at the examples of suicides in the Bible. Abimilech, Saul, Saul’s armor bearer, Ahithophel, Zimri, and Judas. That’s not a who’s-who list of righteous, God-fearing people. Certainly, they aren’t the examples we would want to follow.
I used to be mad at Derek because I saw his final choice as the most selfish thing a person could do. But I’ve changed over time. Now I pity those who even contemplate suicide. Sometimes life is filled with tremendous pain and darkness hangs over our every thought and all we want to do is have it end. That is a hard way to live and makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to think clearly. Throwing Scripture at the person to guilt them into staying alive is not always the best thing. Piling feelings of guilt only adds to a person’s burden, and at some point, the burden can become excessive (II Cor. 2:7).
If you’ve wanted your life to end, you are not alone. Paul was burdened excessively, beyond his strength, so that he even despaired of life (II Cor. 1:8). He understands. But there are some important things to remember. Even if you are in such a dark place that you can’t feel the encouragement, still tell yourselves these truths. Say them out loud, if you need to. Repeat them over and over.
- God loves you (John 3:16). He wants you to live. Not just here and now, but forever. God sent His Son to die so that we don’t have to (John 11:25-26).
- Death is the enemy (I Cor. 15:26) rather than the solution. Those feelings you have within you to end it all are part of what we should fight against. Our enemy, the devil, was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). If he has set his sight on ending you, do not give him the satisfaction.
- Don’t believe everything you feel. I can’t stress this enough. In those dark corners of our lives, we feel forgotten and unloved. We feel useless and like a burden. We tell ourselves that everyone around us would be better off without us. Don’t believe those voices and feelings. They are lying to you. Satan isn’t just a murderer, he is also the father of lies (John 8:44). Don’t believe the lies.
- Do trust in God. That was what Paul learned when he despaired of life (II Cor. 1:9). Those are moments where we can’t make everything better. In fact, in those moments, we often can’t do anything at all. But trust that God can. If God can raise the dead (and we know that He can) then God can overcome the challenges we face
- Life is short (Jam. 4:14). Even when every breath is a laborious, miserable act and every second we have to go on living feels like an eternity…life is still short. I won’t cheapen your experiences by saying the pain and depression aren’t that bad. After all, if you’re thinking of ending your life, it’s bad enough, right? What can be said though, is that there is an end to this journey, and while it may feel like it is a long way away, it isn’t. We are just a vapor on this earth. The time for rest and relief is around the corner. But if we are to run in such a way as to win (I Cor. 9:24) then we have to follow the rules, which means we don’t get to take short cuts (II Tim. 2:5). To get to the finish line and the glorious, hope-filled prize on the other side, we must press on a little longer. But in the end, it really is only a little longer.
- Don’t be alone. If you’ve gotten to a point where you can’t trust your own thoughts and feelings, then it is time to seek out help. Don’t wait for others to come to your rescue. Go to them. I wish Derek had.