I have not blogged for a while. This has been a hard week. A guy from a Bible study I have attended for the past several months each week committed suicide. Since I heard the news about this individual, I have been flooded with personal questions that have taken much of my free time. Questions like:
“Why?” Why did I not know he was struggling with whatever he was struggling with? Why could I not discern what he was going through and try and help him through his situation?
“How?” How could he do it? How could life get so hard for some that the only answer would be to end his life in the manner in which he ended it? How could I have not seen the symptoms?
“Is?” Is he in heaven or is he in hell? Does suicide result in losing one’s salvation or can we honestly believe that even through the event of committing suicide an individual can still enter eternity with God?
These are honest questions perhaps you would ask or have asked when you have heard the news of an individual who has ended their life in such a tragic way. They are honest questions we need to work through so that we can continue to live as a people of God. It is not an easy thing to work through; it takes time to make sense (if it is really even possible) through the different aspects the events of suicide ensue. I believe however that I have found a place where I can at least move on and not curse God or John for the events that occurred this past week.
The first place we need to look is not to John but God. We need to remember who God is and ultimately who God says He is in His Word. We know believe the Word of God says He is love, we believe the Word of God says He is gracious and merciful, and we believe the Word of God says God is just. God’s characteristics display all of these things and more, so the Bible claims in its written proclamation. If we do not deal with this issue first, if we do not believe God inhabits these characteristics, we will continue to struggle through the healing process we desire to take place. So, a very practical place to begin is with the question, “Do I believe that God is love? Do I believe that God is both merciful and gracious? And do I believe that God is just?” If you can honestly affirm these things, that God is love, merciful, gracious, and just, we can begin to build the healing process; this is our foundation in which we can heal. I personally believe we cannot move on until this is affirmed in ourselves.
When we have come to a place where our faith and trust in who God is, we can then build a path towards healing and continue to live the life God has called us to live.
“How could this individual commit suicide?” I am sure we can branch several questions from this root. The most honest answer I can give is, “I don’t know.” I say that because I do not know the heart of the individual and what he was going through at that time when he made a decision to do what he did. There are those who would have us look to the symptoms of an individual’s situation and state the means to the end was the root of the individual’s response. I wan to encourage us to not look at it from that perspective. After talking to several people who are much smarter than I will probably ever be, it seems as though it can be a lot easier to grasp onto the symptoms rather than realize the symptoms the individual was dealing with is very different from the root cause. For example, if an individual was dealing with bi-polar disorder or pneumatic depression, it could be very easy to say, “Well, the individual was dealing with bi-polar and it caused him to commit suicide.” The only problem with that statement (even though it could be the ‘reason’) is that it is not the root issue but is one symptom (perhaps among many) the person was dealing with at that time. That is why we must look to God rather than the individual or what the individual’s symptoms were, order to cope with our loss.
God knows why the individual committed suicide.
God knows what was going on.
That does not make the coping process any easier to go through perhaps, but it is my personal belief we must look to this end rather than any other preconceived notions. This may or may not help in answering one of the most difficult and controversial questions we ask ourselves or others: “Is this individual in heaven or is he or she in hell? Can one lose their salvation if they commit suicide?”
As I have already said, this is a seriously difficult and controversial subject that is not answered directly in Scripture. Let us go back to our foundation though in hopes of answering this question intelligently and honestly. God is love. He is gracious and merciful. He is just. As long as we believe these statements, I believe we can find a correct answer to this question. There are three aspects we must state though before we can rightly answer this question:
1. Committing suicide (whether a believer in Christ or not) is a selfish act. It is a sin. In some anthropomorphical way, it causes God to grieve (or cry). I do not understand how that all works out in heaven but I have to believe that it grieves God when we take our life into our own hands and end our life in that manner. If God is love, gracious, merciful and just, He is able to help us in our times of need. The Psalmist said, “Even when I walk through the path of darkness, You (God) are there.” When we feel as though we cannot go on in this world, God is there with His arms wide open. He is a True Father who opens His arms and desires to pick us up like little children and whisper in our ear that He loves us and we will be okay. He is love. He knows what we need and He knows how to provide for us.
2. Suicide is a sin. There is no other way around it. It is a selfish sin. It is not a “greater” sin to God than other sins; God sees all sin equally and does not magnify one sin over another. It is all imperfection and rebellion to God. The bummer about committing this sin however is the end result. When one commits the sin of suicide, there is no chance to repent from their choice to end their life. When the individual meets with God, he will have to give an account for his act and his choice to do what he did. Committing suicide however does not mean automatically that an individual is going to hell. It also does not give a ‘right’ for someone to end his or her life though. Committing suicide does not either admit or throw out one’s salvation in Christ. God Himself is the Judge of our eternal resting place (either heaven or hell). That is dependant on our personal relationship with Christ.
3. Going back to our foundation once again: God is God. He knows all. He knows the end from the beginning. He is the Supreme Judge. He knows the heart of the individual. He knows if the individual had a real and genuine relationship. Only God knows this. We are never in a position to say one way or another. We must always remember this point. If we believe we have found some ‘holy grail’ of knowledge that allows us to judge an individual’s heart, we need to wake up. Once again, God is the Supreme Judge.
So, after acknowledging these points, what can we say of an individual who has committed suicide? Write this down. I hope that you will not run with this answer but will study it on your own. This is my answer to someone who asks the question, “Are they in heaven or are they in hell?” based on our points above:
“All I know is when the individual committed suicide, their eyes were closed in the world and opened in the presence of God. The individual went before God and gave an account for their life and their relationship with God. Finally, God is love. He is merciful and gracious. He is just.”
Any other statement in which we can add to those statements (however you would like to word them for yourself) is speculation and an opinion. If an individual had a personal relationship with God, the Word of God says that no one can pluck a sheep from the Master’s hand (John 10) and that no one can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8). I want to believe that the person who I personally knew was a believer in Christ and had a personal relationship with Him. That does not excuse his decision to commit suicide mind you. Again, God knows His heart in that manner. I do not want to automatically in the same pretence state he is in heaven. God knows His heart. That is why our relationship with Christ is dependant upon God and us alone. We will be the only ones in the room when we give an account to our relationship with Christ. We will not be able to look to other people or make excuses for why we missed out on opportunities to be used by God on this earth. It is God and I or God and you. I hope we never forget that.
Dealing with the issue of suicide is not an easy one to deal with. Let us always remember however where our foundation is found. It is found in God. He is love. He is merciful and gracious. He is just. His Word is true and we can rest in knowing that God is God and we are not. Even when something as horrible as suicide occurs, we can meet with God and know He is in control.