Meditations on Suicide
By Dr. Norman Wise
[Deu 30:19 NASB] 19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”
I had been thinking about suicide since I was seven years old. Living in an alcoholic family where abusive and sometimes violent arguments were a daily routine, being a sickly boy, despised by my father because I was a sickly young boy, and feeling responsible for the insanity of my daily home life, I began to believe that I would be doing everyone and myself a favor by ending my life.
Having seen “The Seven Samurai” movie many times and having a twelve inch bowie knife given to me by my father, I would rock back and forth with this blade at my stomach seeking the courage to plunge it into my belly. I looked upon death as a release from the torture of this life and hopefully a way to enter heaven. But because I was not sure about that and my fear of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire was one factor holding me back from taking my own life.
By the grace of God I found faith in Christ Jesus and the ability to endure the struggles of a dysfunctional home life, divorce, and all the struggles of living in a single parent home in the early sixties. I was tempted often in times of stress, loss, and inner agony to consider suicide. But I was able to navigate by the mercy of God out of my dark and painful depression into a better state.
All of this being said to assure those who have considered suicide that I have some idea of the inner struggle and temptation to solve the inner pain of the soul and the outward reality of overwhelming circumstances by playing the “death card” and leaving the game of life.
Important first thoughts:
If you are having thoughts of suicide, contact a local mental health professional, a local hospital emergency department, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273-TALK (8255). Calls to the Lifeline are routed 24 hours a day to the crisis center closest to the caller where staff is trained to work with people who want to end their life. Please get help now!
If you are a friend or family member of someone who has committed suicide, you need to know that just because your loved one committed suicide does not mean there is no hope of salvation. This one act alone would not deny a person who believed in Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior forgiveness and eternal life. We should not give up all hope for our loved one simply because they committed suicide.
Several of the many shades of suicide:
Direct Suicide is when someone intentionally desires to take his/her own life. This is the sin of murder. They make this decision in a calculated way, and purely for selfish reasons. An example of this would be when Adolf Hitler took his life to avoid justice before the international courts for his crimes against humanity. His sole motivation was to demonstrate his ultimate power and control over the situation and reflected a life of massively abusive actions and words that had dominated his life.
Irrational Suicide is when a person suffers from a mental and emotional breakdown and is unable any longer to know right from wrong. This may be due to the misuse of drugs. They have lost the means to make rational decisions and in this condition, suffer the loss of their life due to an action they take. Those in an irrational state are not morally responsible for their actions. Such sad events are not sin.
Personal Euthanasia is when due to massive physical pain or trauma a person chooses death over a prolonged, torturous, and futile death process. The choice here is not to prolong the death process and not really the act of murder in taking one’s own life. This would not be a sin.
Indirect suicide is when the goal is to prevent harm to others, but the effect is to lose one’s life, even though one does not desire to kill themselves. This would happen when a person in the military jumps on a grenade to save the other people in his unit. This is an act of virtue showing sacrificial love and is not a sin.
There are other types of circumstances in which a person takes their life and each would have to be carefully evaluated to decide whether they are sinful.
Of the types of suicide listed here, only direct suicide is a sin because it is “self-murder.”
Suicide is not the unforgiveable sin.
Why do people have the idea that suicide leads to going to hell?
The idea that suicide automatically condemns someone to hell is an idea that many Christians believe to be true. The reasoning for this is:
- A sin must be confessed and repented of to be forgiven.
- A person who commits suicide cannot confess or repent of it after taking their life.
- Therefore, direct and intentional suicide must result in eternal damnation because this sin has not been forgiven.
This is not true.
The Problem with this reasoning:
- If this was true of suicide, it would have to be true of all other sins.
- If every sin must be confessed and repented of in a particular way to be forgiven, only those who have confessed and repented of every specific sin will go to heaven.
- Every Christian has sins they have failed to confess and repent of at the time of death. Sin includes hardness of heart, selfishness, greed, lust, and anger.
- So then, if we must confess and repent of all sins to avoid hell, all Christians will go to hell because they die with unconfessed sins of which they have not fully repented.
- This clearly is not what the Bible teaches. The scriptures say that heaven will be filled with so many people that they cannot be numbered from all cultures and nations. (Revelation 5:11)
This would show that the logic that suicide is an unforgivable sin is flawed and is not true.
Why are people not sent to hell?
The questions about suicide show we are confused about why people do not go to hell.
People do not go to hell because they are justified (Declared Righteous) because of the death of Christ for them which once for all pays for all their sins. The moment they believe in Christ, they move from death to life. Even this faith is a gift of God and not a good work.
No particular sin a person commits after conversion can damn them to hell (Romans 5:1-11). Therefore, suicide does not automatically damn to hell. However, it could be a sign of a person not having faith in Christ. Faith in Christ changes us and gives us a new direction in life. This is not perfect, but substantial. The only question is whether a person’s suicide was because they did not really know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. That is what matters when talking about heaven or hell.
The issue then is always the same. Does a person have faith in Christ and therefore their sins are paid for by the sacrifice of Christ, or do they not have faith in Christ and therefore must pay for all their own sins including suicide.
Have I called upon the Living Christ to be the one that will pay for my sins, or am I still depending on myself to pay for my own sins? That is the one key issue which determines hell or heaven, and not the act of suicide itself.
Suicide in not the unforgivable sin, nor does it immediately result in a person being justly condemned to hell.
Why should Suicide not be chosen as a solution to the pain and problems of life?
Direct and intentional suicide is an option some people consider when overwhelmed with intense pain or distress. If you are a person thinking about suicide, you need to know this action could be one that represents a lack of true faith in Jesus Christ and therefore could place you before the throne of God without the death of Christ applied to your sins. This would be jumping out of the “frying pan and into the fire.” It is this rejection of Christ that would place your soul in danger, for without the blood sacrifice of Christ being the payment for your sins, you will not go to heaven. So your first questions should be “Do I really believe in Christ and would HE want me to take my own life?”
Intentional suicide is not a solution, but rather a sin. Since suicide is the sin of murder, it is a very serious sin. To commit suicide is taking a high spiritual risk and would never be a wise or safe way to enter into eternity.
But how do I deal with the desire to die?
Self Talk aimed at the Love of life to help overcome suicidal intentions
What is self-talk?
Self-talk is a person’s internal dialogue, which can be positive and motivational or negative and demotivating.
Part of this internal dialogue can be a wish for death or idealization about suicide. How can we weaken such internal conversation?
One is to replace this focus on death as an answer to our problems with realistic self-talk about life, death, and suicide.
If someone suffers from such thoughts on a regular basis, this self-talk or one like it should be used 6 times a day, should be spoken out loud if possible and ideally while looking in a mirror. This self-talk should also be used whenever the internal dialogue begins to go down the road of desiring or idealizing death.
You should alter this suggested self-talk to fit you. Keep it healthy and holy. If you do alter, however, you may want to ask a friend if what you’re saying seems alright. I used this self-talk to help me to overcome my desire to take my own life.
Self-Talk to Overcome “love of death” internal dialogue
My life is God’s gift to me.
I don’t own my life, it belongs to God, but I manage it for God.
Suicide is a sin, not a solution.
The pain in me will only spread to others if I kill myself.
The people who love me the most would suffer the most from my death.
The people who hate me will be glad to hear of my death.
I will only multiply pain and suffering by my death.
My life has purpose.
My life is going to help others.
God has begun a good work in my life and will finish it.
My life has great value, for I am made in God’s image.
My life has great value for God has bought me by HIS blood.
I don’t know the future so I should not take my life over fear about what will happen.
If I died prematurely, I would rob people of the good I may have produced.
I read the following article by counselor Bill Gaultiere concerning why people should not take their lives. I hope you find it helpful.
“Maybe you feel no one really cares about what you’re going through or that there is no hope for things to get better for you. You don’t have to remain in depression.
But maybe suicide feels like an escape from your pain. Please read on for real hope!
There is at least one person in your life – probably many more than that – who loves you far more than you realize and has real hope for you.
You may be reading this article because you’re afraid for a loved one who is feeling suicidal. What do you say? How do you help? As you’ll see from reading this article, what people who are feeling despair need most is someone who will listen to them without shaming them or panicking about their suicidal feelings. Ask them if they feel suicidal and if they have a plan. Listen and offer comfort. Help them take their next step to get help for the depression. Keep praying!
What is it Like to Be a Suicide Loss Survivor?
Each person I interviewed is a survivor of a loved one’s suicide. They have cried countless tears. They live with an empty space in their lives and their hearts. Not a single day goes by that they don’t wish they could talk with their loved one. They hurt so much after their loved one’s suicide that it seemed the grief would never end — they were plunged into depression and the only relief they experienced was the comfort of Christ through caring people and lots of prayer. This pulled them through to healing and new hope.
Each of my friends who lost a loved one to suicide volunteers hundreds of hours year after year as New Hope Crisis Counselors at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA to listen, care, and pray for hurting people just like you. If you call 714-NEW-HOPE or click into the private chat room at NewHopeNow.org they will be there for you. Or, 24 hours a day you can call 1-800-SUICIDE.
Volunteering in Jesus’ name to help others who are in emotional pain is a huge part of what has brought them new fulfillment and meaning in their lives.
I personally know each survivor of suicide that I interviewed. From 1994 to 2010 I served as the Executive Director of the New Hope Crisis Counseling ministry. I have helped to train over 1,000 Christian lay counselors, including these six men and women.
Here’s what they want to say to you right now…
The Crisis Line Didn’t Answer my Call!
Shirl lost her teenage son to suicide 17 years ago. She read his suicide letter, hidden in his pillow case, and went numb. She fell in bed and laid in a fetal position next to the phone for hours. Again and again she called 714-NEW-HOPE, but she continually had to wait for a volunteer to become available. She finally did get through to the help she needed and received pastoral counseling and prayer. A couple of years later she volunteered to become a New Hope Crisis Counselor so that others in crisis could more quickly get through to get the help they need. She became so effective as a crisis counselor that she went on to volunteer her time to train other people – ministers, police officers, counselors, parents, siblings, teenagers, and children – to help someone in despair.
If you were to meet Shirl and tell her of your own despair, she’d give you a hug just like the one she wishes she could give her son right now. She’d listen and care for you – even if you were grumpy! She’d do anything and everything to get you the help you need to overcome depression and get through your crisis.
Shirl would help you to see that the black hole you’re in right now is really a black spot and that if you could step back and get a wider view on your life, you’d see that there are some spots of light and beauty in your life picture. One bright spot that her son would have seen if only he hadn’t given up too soon was that after his death his sister had two delightful children and he would’ve loved being their uncle! He would’ve been a great uncle and a great father…If only he could’ve hung on a little longer and gotten the help he needed.
I Felt I’d been Hit in the Chest with a Baseball Bat!
It was seven years ago that Jack found his son 23-year old son lying on the floor in his room. His body was cold and motionless. There was a rifle shot through his head. All he could say was, “Oh God! Chris!” He felt total devastation and overwhelming pain.
If you could sit down over a cup of coffee with Jack, within minutes you’d feel like he was an old buddy. He’d listen to you in his gentle way. He wouldn’t judge you or give you advice. He’d notice your kindness and laughter – these are things he misses about his son Chris. Chris had a way of making others feel good. Even now it makes Jack feel good to remember his son. Tragically, Chris lost sight of what a blessing he was or he’d still be alive today. If only he could’ve seen in himself what his father saw.
I Miss Being my Mother’s Child
Maria’s mother shot herself in her heart. When Maria found her she cried out, “This cannot be true!” It’s been thirty years, but she still misses her Mommy!
Like her mother, Maria has suffered from bouts of Major Depression. She knows how it feels to trudge through life with your feet sticking in wet cement. She understands the feeling her mother expressed so many times, “Stop the world! I want to get off!” But Maria got help to take the step that her mother never took; she came to terms with her mental illness and dealt with it. She talked to a pastor, a doctor, and then a counselor. She prayed and prayed. She made new friends. Ultimately, God led her to become a New Hope Counselor and begin a new career in mental health. She says helping others helps her.
Today Maria says that her new life is God’s miracle to her. But she still wants her mother back.
My Best Friend Drove Away and Never Came Back
Just before Christmas, Suzanne’s roommate, business partner and best friend drove away in her truck, apparently to “clear her head” during a stressful time, as she often did. But this time she never came back. On Christmas Eve Suzanne got the dreadful news that her friend had hung herself. A wave of cold swept over her, leaving behind unending ripples of sorrow. She cried and cried – right through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after that. For the next three Christmases she couldn’t put up a Christmas tree or decorate. Eight years later she says she still has a deep hole in her heart that will never completely heal.
“How could a Christian who loved God and who did not believe in suicide fall into such darkness and take her own life? How could I with a Master’s degree in counseling and years of experience in the field not know? Why did she not tell me?” Suzanne had to find out the answer to these questions and do what she could to help others to not choose suicide, so she volunteered with New Hope.
If you met Suzanne you’d want her to be your friend. I know because she’s my friend. She’d have time to talk with you. She’d listen to your hurts with her ears and her eyes. Her gentle compassion would embrace your heart. She’d treat you like a family member because she knows how it feels to be alone and have no family members to share your life with. She’d show you that if you were to kill yourself there are people in this world who would miss having conversations with you and would miss your friendship and that you’d miss out on these joys to come. If you’d let her, Suzanne would help you call some of your family members and friends to let them know how depressed you’ve been and how desperately you need compassion right now.
Letting someone like Suzanne become a friend to you would help you to believe that even though things look dark at the moment, God has not abandoned you and there is hope for you.
I Wanted to Take the Life of God’s Son!
Kedron heard the gun shot in other room. He jumped out of bed only to find that his lovely wife had shot herself. He screamed for God to help his wounded wife, but God didn’t come. Finally, the police came and an ambulance and took his wife to the hospital. They couldn’t save her. Kedron demanded that God have His Son take physical form and appear. Why? He answered, “So I can take the life of the Son of God! Why not? God had taken her (that’s what I thought at the time) so it seemed only right that I take the Father’s son away from Him.”
Fortunately, the next day Kedron turned back to God. He let go of his angry and blaming of God, and clung to God for the comfort he so desperate needed. He says it was the only way he could hang on. He had lost his wife and the mother of his children. He lost the one most dear to him. He’s counted the days without her: 4 years, 1 month, and 17 days.
Kedron desperately wishes he could go back in time and tell her, “I love you with all my heart. And I’m sorry for the ways I hurt you.” (There’s probably someone in your life who wants to say that to you and just needs the courage to actually say it.) Kedron would tell his wife about the kids and the grandkids and how they all miss her so much. She would be enjoying her kids and her grandkids right now if only she wouldn’t have pulled the trigger. She loved children! If only she would’ve set the gun down and called out for help. If only she could’ve realized she wasn’t crazy like she said in her suicide note; she was actually having a horrible reaction to a new anti-depressant medication that wasn’t right for her. If only she’d understood that the crisis she was experiencing wouldn’t last forever. If only…
The One Person you Must Talk to!
Jesus is the sixth “Person” I interviewed. If you don’t talk to anyone else you must talk to him! He too is a survivor of suicide because every person who has died by suicide was one of his loved ones.
Besides that, God the Father lost His only son Jesus when Jesus allowed himself to be crucified. Jesus suffered the worst agonies imaginable in his earthly life so he understands your pain more than you realize. He continues to suffer today when one of his children like you is hurting. The Lord opens His heart to you.
God knows you better than you know yourself (Psalm 139). He knows the number of the hairs on your head and not one sparrow falls down without being cared for by your Father (Luke 12:7). His thoughts of you are precious (Psalm 139:17, NLT).
Each of your sorrows is noticed by the Lord – each tear you cry is recorded in his book and saved in the bottle he has for you (Psalm 56:8, NLT).
God wants to help you to receive His forgiveness for your sins and His healing for your diseases (Psalm 103:3). You are his beloved child (1 John 3:1) and he has appointed an angel to minister to you in the Father’s presence (Matthew 18:10). He sends people from the Body of Christ to be Christ’s Ambassadors to you (2 Corinthians 5:20). And He has given you the Bible to guide you (Psalm 119:105).
God is everywhere around you in the creation, speaking from the skies and shining on you from the heavens (Psalm 19:1-6).
Best of all, the Father loves you so much that He gave his Son Jesus to you (John 3:16) and Jesus came to free you from evil and to help you to grow into His abundant life; He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His holy and beautiful life for you so that you can grow into a satisfying love relationship with Him (John 10:10-11).
God wants to strengthen you with His joy (Nehemiah 8:10) and teach you to live in the blessings of sharing his love with others (Acts 20:35). His great promise to you is: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’” (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NIV).
There is so much more hope for you in the Bible. You just need to learn to read it as “God’s Love Letter to You.”
Dare to Hope!
Would you dare to hope that God does have good plans for you? That Jesus Christ loves you completely? Would you seek the Lord and put your trust and confidence in him?
People like Shirl, Jack, Maria, Suzanne, and Kedron are waiting to answer distress calls. Each is a survivor of a loved one’s suicide. More than that, each is an Ambassador for Christ. For years they have served as New Hope Counselors answering the hotline at 714-NEW-HOPE and responding in the private chat room at NewHopeNow.org. They care. They encourage. They problem-solve. And most of all, they pray to the Lord on your behalf.
There are many suicide hotlines with caring volunteers. For instance, 24 hours a day you can call 1-800-SUICIDE to receive help from a caring person.
Why do people volunteer to listen to and care for people in despair? Because they know what it’s like to hurt and they’ve experienced the hope that comes with experiencing God’s love. All the New Hope volunteers and many volunteers on other hotlines have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord, Savior, and Friend and so they’re able to pray for you to learn to rely upon his caring presence and capable help. Jesus is alive and caring for you through them.
Prayers for You
So please don’t think suicide is a way out! Each of my friends who is a survivor of suicide wants you to choose God’s new hope for your life. And they wanted me to leave you a prayer from their hearts to yours:
“Lord, I pray that your child may find a way into Your light that shines through the darkness. Give this child the strength to reach out for help and to accept the love you are giving through others. Embrace and comfort this one and give your peace. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
“Dear Lord, I pray You show this person your kind and loving touch. Let him or her see that your arms are open wide to heal the pain. I ask this in Your name. Amen.”
“Dear Father, I come before you in Jesus’ name on behalf of this person reading these words now. Maybe he or she is suffering from depression or another illness. You’re sending help and hope – please help this person to perceive it and receive it and conceive it in a new life with you. Amen.”
“Dear Lord, bless this friend who is thinking of taking his or her life. Lift this dear one up from the mire. Shine your light in the dark. Show your child Your love that says, ‘I am here. You are not alone. You matter. There is good hope for you!’ Lord, watch over Your beloved child right now and always and keep him or her safe from harm. Reveal the good plan You have for his or her life and turn thoughts of death into a new desire for life and turn old sorrows into new joys. Amen.”
“Dear Father, I miss my wife so much! Please Father, I beg you on my knees to help me and others in this fight of evil in our hearts. Let no one feel again what I and my family have felt. I don’t know if my tears will ever stop as they remind me of the love I have for you. Please Father, don’t leave us in this dark place. We are so alone and afraid. We need You at our side to stand with us against hopelessness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”
“Holy Father, keep them and care for them – all those you have given me – so that they will be united just as we are… So they would be filled with My joy… Keep them safe from the evil one… I have revealed You to them and will keep on revealing You. I will do this so that Your love for me may be in them and I in them” (John 17:11, 13, 15, 26, NLT).
Pastor Rick Warren’s son committed suicide after years of battling mental illness. Hear what he has to say about suicide.
I know what it feels like to think that killing myself was the only answer there was for me. By the grace of God I was kept from succeeding in taking my life. Where there is life there is hope.
So if you are tempted to take your life, get help.
If you have friends struggling with depression, fear, despair, and hopelessness, be a help.
Today choose life!
(I want to thank a special group of fellow writers that encouraged me and helped me to write this article.)