By Timothy P. Hadley
The term “suicide” was coined in 1651 from the Latin words sui, signifying “one’s self,” and cide or its variations, meaning “to kill.” Simply then, suicide is to purposefully take one’s own life, and this is out of a misdirected self-love.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death globally. Worldwide, the suicide rate has gone up by 60% over the last five decades – mainly in industrialized nations. According to the World Health Organization, approximately one million people commit suicide each year, that is about one death every 32 seconds or 2,740 per day. Globally, suicide’s mortality rate is 16 per 100,000 people. For each individual who takes his or her own life, at least 20 attempt to do so.
In the United States, according to the Center For Disease Control, there were 44,965 suicides in 2016, compared to 19,000 murders and 13,000 AIDS related deaths. It is the third leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 to 25 years, but in 2016 the highest suicide rate was among adults between 45 and 54. The second highest rate occurred in those 85 years or older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults.
Females are more likely to attempt suicide, however males are four times more likely to successfully commit suicide. In the USA, firearms accounted for 51% of all suicides in 2016, and many of the total, 16.5%, were alcohol-related. Individuals who are misusing drugs are 10 to 20 times more likely to take their own lives than the rest of the population.
Hope For A Hurting World
What is behind suicide? It is a loss of hope. People can live without food for a long time. We can live without water for less time, but we cannot live without hope. Once hope is gone, men and women look for ways to end their lives. This is a work of the enemy, Satan – the Devil and the destroyer! In Psalm 42:5 we read: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance” (NKJV). Similarly, Psalm 42:11 and 43:5 say, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” In difficult days – for every day – there is hope for the follower of Jesus Christ. It is a hope that is anchored in heaven – sure and steadfast – and promised by a God who cannot lie (Heb. 6:13-18).
Accounts In Scripture
The Bible tells us that Satan tempted the Lord Jesus to commit suicide (Mt. 4:5-6; Lk. 4:9-11). The Philippian jailor, wrongly thinking his prisoners had escaped, was about to commit suicide, but he was stopped and led to Christ (Acts 16:27-34). Some of the servants of the Lord became so frustrated in their service that they asked God to kill them, including Moses (Num. 11:10–15), Elijah (1 Ki. 19:1-4), and Jonah (Jon. 4:1–11). Many will attempt suicide during the great tribulation, but will be unable to find death (Rev. 9:6).
The Bible mentions at least six people who committed suicide: Abimelech (Jud. 9:54), Saul (1 Sam. 31:4), Saul’s armor-bearer (vv.4-6), Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:23), Zimri (1 Ki. 16:18) and Judas (Mt. 27:5). Five of these men were noted for their wickedness, the excepton is Saul’s armor-bearer as nothing is said of his character. Some think Samson committed suicide because he knew his actions would lead to his death (Jud. 16:26–31), but Samson’s goal was to kill Philistines, not himself.
A Biblical Perspective
The Bible views suicide as equal to murder, which is what it is: the murder of self. God is the only one who is to decide when and how a person should die. We, instead, should say with the psalmist, “My times are in your hands” (Ps. 31:15). God is the giver of life – He gives and He takes away (Job 1:21). Suicide, the taking of one’s own life, is ungodly because it rejects God’s gift of life. No man or woman should presume to take God’s authority to himself or herself and end his or her own life!
Certainly there were those in the Bible who felt deep despair in life. We have already mentioned how Elijah was fearful and depressed, yearning to die (1 Ki. 19:4), and Jonah’s anger at God, wishing for death (Jon. 4:8). To them we can add Solomon who in his pursuit of pleasure reached a point where he “hated life” (Eccl. 2:17). The apostle Paul, too, at one time declared, “We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired of life” (2 Cor. 1:8). However, none of these men committed suicide. Solomon learned to “fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Eccl. 12:13). Elijah was comforted by an angel, allowed to rest, and given a new commission. Jonah received admonition and rebuke from the LORD. Paul learned that, although the pressure he faced was beyond his ability to endure, the Lord bears all things: “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9).
A Sin That Leads To Hell?
Suicide is a sin, but it is not the “greatest” sin. It is no worse than other evils in terms of how God sees it, and it does not determine a person’s eternal destiny. However, suicide definitely has a deep and lasting impact on those left behind; the painful scars left by a suicide do not heal easily. May God grant His grace to each one who is facing trials today (Ps. 67:1), and may each of us take hope in His promise, “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).
Scripture teaches that from the moment we truly believe in Christ we are guaranteed eternal life (Jn. 3:16). According to the Bible, Christians can know beyond any doubt that they possess this life (1 Jn. 5:13). Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39), not even a Christian who commits suicide can be separated from God. Jesus died for all of our sins; if a true Christian, in a time of spiritual attack and weakness, commits suicide, his sin is still covered by the blood of Christ.
Suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven. If an unsaved person commits suicide he has done nothing but expedite, or hasten, his journey to hell. That person will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ – not because he committed suicide (see Jn. 3:18). We should also point out that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart in the moments before death. Some people have deathbed conversions and accept Christ in their last portion of time in this world. It is possible that a person who commits suicide could have a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy. We leave such judgments to God, the One who “looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7).
The suicide of a believer is evidence that anyone can struggle with despair and that our enemy, Satan, is “a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). Suicide is still a serious sin against God: murder. It is always wrong. Christians are called to live their lives for God, and the decision of when to die is God’s and God’s alone. Put your hope in God!
Five Simple Truths
What we have seen so far can give us a firm biblical foundation, but let’s consider these five simple truths.
1. The people of God sometimes feel so bad that they want to die.
Moses was under tremendous pressure from the people of Israel to take them back to Egypt. They were dissatisfied with his leadership, and their complaints stirred the Lord to send fire against them. Moses eventually said, “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now – if I have found favor in Your sight – and do not let me see my wretchedness” (Num. 11:14-15).
Elijah, in his days, endured the incredible strain of single-handedly opposing 450 prophets of Baal, the people of Israel and the king. God vindicated Elijah’s faith, and he ran exuberantly for miles, faster than the king’s chariot. Then he heard that the king’s wife, Jezebel, vowed to kill him. In his fear and exhaustion the prophet went into the wilderness, sat down under a broom tree and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Ki. 19:4).
The prophet Jonah displayed one of the most selfish attitudes of all the prophets, being irritated that God had mercy on the pagan city of Nineveh. Therefore, God rebuked him with a desert wind: “When the sun arose … God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live’” (Jon. 4:8).
Like these three men of God, sometimes we lose sight of the hope we have, and discouragement becomes depression, depression turns into despair, and despair leads to thoughts of giving up.
2. It is sin to fulfill that desire by taking your own life.
Committing suicide is sin for at least three reasons. First, it is disobedience to the command of God, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). Disobedience to God’s commands is sin.
Second, it is sin to intrude on God’s sovereign right to give and take life. God alone can create a human person, and therefore personhood belongs to God. We have no right to dispose of ourselves or others as we please. The Lord has sole rights over what he has made. Murder and suicide intrude on the sacred ground where God alone is the giver and taker.
Third, it is failure to trust in God for the help needed to survive and cope. The Bible says that whatever is not from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). If a Christian takes one’s own life, he or she will give an account for this before the Lord. It is not the fault of those left behind!
Truly, we are on firm biblical ground when we say, “It is sin to take your own life.”
3. Faith can be so weak at times that the heart gives way to grievous sin.
Romans 7 describes how Christians struggle with the remaining corruption in our lives: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (v.15).
First John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
But this does not mean that the saving relationship with Christ goes in and out of existence with each of our sins. When a believer yields to temptation his faith in Christ is weak, and the enticements of sin and the power of Satan get the upper hand. But there is a great difference between Satan getting a temporary upper hand and Satan being the lord of your life, between yielding with resistance to an evil that I hate to do and doing that evil as part of a usual pattern.
Believers may take their eyes off of the Lord and lose hope, but the Lord never takes His eye off of them. Nothing can pluck us out of His hand (Jn. 10:27-29).
4. The only way sin can be forgiven is in our relationship to Jesus Christ by faith.
People’s last decisions do not define their lives or determine their eternal destinies. Our destinies depend on whether or not we are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Every one of us is a sinner. The Bible tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It also says, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23).
Read what the Bible says in Ephesians 2: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (vv.1-9). This is why the Lord Jesus came to die on the cross!
In Isaiah we read: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (53:4-6).
Jesus Christ came into the world to give His life as a ransom – to pay the price for our sin – that we might have the forgiveness! Therefore the question for every one is: Do you have a relationship of faith with Jesus Christ and are your sins are forgiven? It is the most precious gift in the world. The shed blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is the only way for a sinner to get to God.
5. Do not let the suicide of someone be in vain.
We may never understand an individual’s suicide, no matter how long we ask “how” or “why” this could happen; but let us not let such a death be in vain. A believer has a hope that is beyond this world. He may temporarily lose sight of his Hope – the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 1:1) – but his Hope will not lose sight of him.
The Bible tells us that before Christ we were without hope and without God (Eph. 2:12), but when we confessed with our mouths the Lord Jesus and believed in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead we were saved. “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10).
Having put our faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, “there is … now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv.38-39).
Where do you stand? The psalmist said, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps” (Ps. 40:1-2). This is what the Lord can do for each one reading this article.
For the believer who feels that they are in a pit of discouragement or despair, cry out to Him, don’t lose heart! To the person who has no hope, cry out to Him! He is able to pull you out of the pit you are in. There is no pit so deep that His love cannot reach you and pull you out. There is no problem too big or sin too strong from which the Lord Jesus cannot rescue you. Just cry out to Him today! Cry out to Him now!