Feb 192013 16 Responses

As We Read the Headlines, A Few Reminders About Suicide

The headlines tell the story of another life cut short by the act of suicide.

Few topics are as confusing as this issue. A few years back I did a sermon series in which the congregation picked the topic. The number one receiver of votes was suicide. It shocked me. I would have never guessed so many people would want to hear such a sermon. Yet with two suicides happening for every one murder, the topic is more prevalent than we would like. (See: Trust Me, Your Life Matters)

The old song says, “Suicide is painless,” but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not painless for the family left with grief and questions. It’s not painless for the community who doesn’t know how to respond. It’s not painless for the first responders, doctors, or anyone else left with the images in their head. Suicide may be the most painful of human scenarios.

Here are some answers to a few common questions on suicide:

Is suicide a sin? Yes. The Bible outlaws the willful taking of human life. Suicide fits that description. Our lives are not our own. We are stewards of the lives God has given us. We are called to navigate the life we have been given. Life and death are ultimately in the hands of God and we do not have the right to impede on his decisions. (See: What I Mean When I Say ‘You Are a Sinner’)

Is suicide forgivable? Yes. Like any other sin, suicide can be forgiven by God and by others. As a Christian, I do not believe salvation is something I have accomplished for myself, but something God has done for me. He has forgiven my sins—past, present, and future. While a Christian should never commit suicide, a Christian is more than able to commit suicide in the same way we shouldn’t, but do, commit many sins. An act of disobedience does not undo God’s act of love. 

Why have people wrongly taught about suicide? Most teaching on suicide has been wrong teaching born from good intentions. Why are Christians tempted to teach that suicide is unforgivable? In hopes of scaring people from making that decision. It’s a good hope, but a bad choice. Wrong teaching never has good results. Teaching that suicide is unforgivable is not successful in preventing suicide, but is effective at heaping guilt upon surviving families.

The answers to these three questions should influence our reaction when faced with the issue of suicide.

If you have only experienced suicide from a distance:

  • Keep your mouth shut. It is not your place to judge.
  • Seek understanding. You don’t know what others feel, but you should attempt to understand.
  • Love with action. Words fail us, but a kind, personal act communicates properly.

If you have experienced suicide up-close:

  • Remember, we can help others but we can’t save them. It’s not your fault.
  • We are not responsible for the decisions of others. They made their choice.
  • Grieve and live. Suicide of a friend or loved one does not have to define us, but it is part of our story. Feel it, grieve it, but continue to live your life. (See: What to Do When Life Falls Apart)

If you are contemplating suicide:

  • Get help. Get physical (doctor), psychological (psychologist), and spiritual (pastor) help.
  • Understand the pain suicide causes and choose a different path.
  • Understand what you feel today is not what you will feel tomorrow. Change can happen.

As a pastor, I have been present in a myriad of different tragic scenarios. Many of them run together, but I can remember every individual suicide. The questions, the heartache, the senselessness, are unforgettable. Its been said that if someone could know the full consequences of suicide, they would never choose that act. Having watched families, I believe it. Suicide is often a foolish act with tragic results. Yet the foolishness deserves empathy, not judgment. People deserve truth, not false-teaching born from good intentions.

What questions do you have about suicide?

For more, see:

7 Recommended Books for When Life Falls Apart

When Life Seems Out of Control

 

16 Responses to As We Read the Headlines, A Few Reminders About Suicide
  1. Denny Neff Reply

    As someone who has suffered from clinical depression and am still undergoing treatment for it, I’d like to share a couple of things with you and those who follow your blog. As a part of my recovery I’ve spent hours sitting in group therapy sessions with others who have been suicidal. Imagine if you can a person who is so consumed with sadness and hopelessness that they cannot see a reason for living another moment. People who kill themselves are people, I think, whom satanic powers from the prince of darkness who has blinded to any hope that is found in life and which we find in Christ. Also with lies that they can never get better as you pointed out. They feel their lives are going to forever be just as it is at that moment. These are sad people who are filled with pain, psychological pain, but believe me it is pain nonetheless. I can empathize with them, not to justify suicide however, because I agree totally with you, but I have been close to that darkness. Another terrifying fact is if an adult commits suicide you are putting your immediate family at a 50% greater risk of committing suicide as well statistically. So for the one killing himself or herself, you increase the risk of your son or daughter committing suicide as well so please don’t do it.

    Thank you addressing such a tragic subject, but a subject that needs to come out of the shadows and brought into the light.

    • Kevin Reply

      Denny, Thank you for your openness and honesty. Yours are important words.

  2. Linda Reply

    Their is an assumption that suicide is never justified, that it is the result of depression, a permanent solution to a temporary problem. What about intractable, incurable physical pain? Suicide is a blessing for those who have certain types of cancer, chronic pain from injuries, horrible genetic anomalies . I have a loved one who lives in excruciating pain despite multiple surgeries and is on enough pain meds to kill a horse. The doctors recently told her there is nothing more to be done. Our state does not have assisted suicide, so we watch this suffering person beg us to help her but we can’t. A loving God would not condemn someone to this kind of pain.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Linda, I appreciate your comments. I understand the issue of assisted suicide is a difficult one. However, I can not reconcile that action with Scripture. I do not believe it is within our rights to end a life, including our own.

    • Jenn Reply

      I’m always so confused when people say a loving God would not so something so horrible. Our God gave up his One and Only Son so that we could be forgiven of our sins! I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t be willing to give up my children so that someone else could be forgiven. We should know that The Lord has a plan with everything he does and we may not ever understand certain things but he is unchanging in His love for us.

  3. Linda King Reply

    Im confused . How are we forgiven for a sin we cant ask for forgiveness for once its done ? Is it acceptable to say ” father please forgive the sin Im about to committ ?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Linda, what a great question and thanks for asking. Salvation is a gift from God. It is something he has done for us. In response to his grace, we ask for forgiveness for our sins, but we are so broken we will never fully know our sinfullness on this earth. We could never repent for everything. God has saved me even though I will sin in the future. Despite my sinfulness, God has promised eternity to me. The nature of salvation being a free gift of God gives me hope no matter the nature of my death. Consider: we sing “what can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus.” We don’t sing, “what can wash away my sin, nothing but my own confession or repentance.” My hope is in Jesus, not me. I would love to answer any follow-up questions. This is a good discussion to have.

  4. Jennifer Richardson Reply

    Thank you for this insightful article. It has been 9 years since my brother’s death. This issue tore me up for the first few years. I had many counseling sessions with my priest searching for an answer as well as comfort regarding this. You have really explained it well. Your suggestions for survivor also well put. No one can understand the pain that comes with suicide unless they have survived it. The grief and the pain are very different from other types of death, no matter how horrific. My brother CHOSE this and his family had no say or warning. It is surreal. I can honestly say that it has made me stronger and I am now in a place to help others. As a middle school teacher, unfortunately it has been an experience that I have had to utilize. But I know that I have made a life-saving difference in several student’s lives. It is a small comfort, though.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you for your story Jennifer. Blessings to you as you continue on your journey.

  5. Jennifer Richardson Reply

    Pardon the incorrect sentence. I attempted to correct it but it wouldn’t type anymore. It should read “survivors are.” Again, thank you for raising awareness.

  6. Cindy nelson Reply

    21 years ago my life changed and the woman I once was, kind, loving, compassionate, fun loving changed to a non sympathetic, hard nosed, woman. My brother committed suicide in November of 1993. This was a complete shock to all of our family and friends. He never once threatened suicide, it just happened. I can only imagine the torment he was going through. For many months after his death I lived in a black hole, fought many demon’s and people who would make comments to me well you know he’s in hell because he took his own life. Really.
    I would wake up each morning with guilt because I should have seen his misery and helped. When I would come home from work I would sit in a dark house and not answer the phone. I would actually look at people and think to myself why are you still here and my brother isn’t. I prayed for God to get me through this, make strong again and never leave my side. I went to grief counseling this didn’t help because the grieving is so different for suicide than natural death. The one question I wanted answered is Why? I found a group, Survivors of Suicide, this group helped me so much because there were family members who lost someone to suicide and people who had attempted suicide. But God has put a counselor in my life because there are times i need a little push. It took many, many years after my brother’s death before I could even say the word suicide. The question of Why is still with me but there will be one day when this question will be answered. Life does go on but just a little differently because I still live with this void in my life but it does get easier to deal with. These few simple words were spoken at my brother’s funeral by Brother Richmond, NEVER JUDGE A PERSON TIL YOU HAVE WALKED IN THEIR SHOES. Life is so precious. My heart goes out to all families that have gone through and still experiencing the many emotions of Suicide and to the many people that have committed suicide.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you for your story Cindy and for getting the help you need to cope with what has happened. Yours is a good testimony to us all.

  7. Cindy nelson Reply

    Thanks so much Kevin for sharing this article. I hope and pray that my response to this article will help many people. Suicide is very heart wrenching, so many emotions that can overwhelm the body and soul, but in my case lots of praying has pulled me through all the dark times. There were even times i thought i was crazy.
    One thing that I left out of my response is a couple of years after my brothers passing, I found myself again I’m somewhat sympathetic, full of love, still a little hard nosed but that’s a good thing and stronger than ever.
    My best advice rely on God, Pastors, yourself, counseling, group therapy (survivors of suicide), family, and friends.
    Our God is an awesome God!!
    I’m not sure if Survivors of Suicide group is in Ft. Smith, anymore. This was in 1994 when I attended this group. And I can honestly say this attending this group was a life saver in many ways.
    Thanks Kevin

  8. […] It’s a tragic pattern played out on a regular basis–a person of faith has a secret, the ... kevinathompson.com/secrets-kill-choose-life-through-honesty
  9. Jill Reply

    As a teen in 1983, I contemplated suicide when I was drowning in utter despair! I worked at Sears in Naples Florida,one day when I couldn’t take it anymore I completely broke down, I took the day off. Walked out of work into a cold fall rain and walked all the way to the hospital. When I got there I ask for help. The story is quite a testimony and the help I got really wasn’t from the staff at all but from the God of hosts.
    I am concerned when you say that suicide is a sin (and an unforgivable one at that). When I Know it as a sickness. Just like cancer is a sicknes. Is cancer a sin when people die from it? ((I know some people would say so, because, we shouldn’t be influenced by anything in this life accept the truth. That by his stripes we ARE healed)) The demonic influence in suicide is overwhelming! Only by the grace of God can anyone make it through. There is only one unforgivable sin. That is knowing and trusting and relying on God then denying Him (The Power there in) and completely, turning your back on God,living completely for yourself. After you have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. We know it in Scripture as blaspheming of the Holy Ghost. I would love to hear from you and have you explain your stance. I have explained mine. Not in great detail because the story is more of a testimony than you’ll ever know. Thank you and God bless! Merry Christmas!
    ( I know as a Baptist, typically women aren’t listen to As teachers to men! Even so, I’m reaching out to you, because we will be judged by every word that comes out of our mouths. And by speaking out may God be glorified and the truth be known. I pray for nothing but God’s blessings Mercy and Grace on you as you keep running the race brother. Your sister in Christ with all love.)

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Jill, thank you for the comment. Notice I never called suicide unforgivable. I actually said the opposite. (btw, at the Baptist school where I went to seminary, some of the best preachers were women.)

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