Suicide: Hard Questions

Rainy Day

I remember a lot from my childhood most of it good. But not all of it. I grew up in rural Mississippi on a gravel road in a single wide trailer. I must have been between 8 and 10 when I went outside one morning and found police at the trailer across the road. The day was wet, dreary, and chilly. I remember the troopers with their wide brimmed hats and gray uniforms standing at the driveway talking in low voices. I remember my mother bringing out hot cocoa to them. The kids were told to stay back from the road. We watched from our postage stamp front porch as folks came and went. My boyish curiosity wondered what happened. Why all the fuss?  Later my dad told me the 20 something son of the woman across the street had killed himself with a shotgun. I did not know the young man. I had seen him coming and going. But I was kid and he was an adult. Despite my youth, I had questions when I found out he had done that.  Some were wrong, driven by morbid curiosity. But others were legitimate, such as why would someone do that? Are they condemned forever if they do? Is it an act of selfishness or selflessness? I had another friend growing up whose parents had both killed themselves. He was shuffled between the two grand parents. Suicide is a terrible thing, much like divorce,  it leaves an inevitable trail of destruction, pain, and questions.

I am continuing a series of posts on suicide. In the first, I looked at what the catechisms taught. In the second, I explained the basic principle that God gives and takes life. Suicide does not fit God’s divinely appointed reasons for taking a life. In this post, I want to answer some possible questions about suicide. If you have others put them in the comments. Remember suicide is the intentional taking of one’s life.

But what about dying in war? If I go into battle isn’t that a type of suicide? No. Why? Because your death is not intentional, though it may be inevitable. Every soldier should do whatever he can to preserve his life while still working to finish his mission.  Soldiers die. But they do not usually kill themselves. And their death is not by their own hand. Suicide is the taking of one’s own life. Death in war does not fit that category.

But what about a soldier who throws himself on a grenade? Or someone who pushes a child out from in front of a moving car? Or a fireman who rushes into a burning building? Isn’t that a type of suicide? Well again, no. Because the intent is not to take one’s life. The intent is to rescue the life of someone else. If I die in the process of saving someone else that is not suicide. The goal of the two acts are different. When a fireman runs into a burning building he is not trying to kill himself even if he knows that the action may result in his death.

Is suicide a sign that someone has deserted the faith or can someone commit that sin and still be a Christian? Christians can commit any sin. Christians have stolen, lied, committed adultery and sodomy, abandoned wives, children, husbands, etc. So yes a  Christian can commit suicide. What makes our appraisal of the person who committed suicide so difficult is the finality of it. If a man commits adultery our evaluation of his eternal fate would be determined by what happens afterward. Does he repent? Does he turn? Or does he continue down the path of ruin. Even if a man struggles with a sin for most of his life we could still evaluate whether or not there is growth and repentance. With suicide, unless the attempt fails, this is impossible. Is suicide a rejection of God? It certainly can be and often is. But that is not always the case.

Is suicide forgivable? This question and the one above are connected. The Roman Catholics have a theology which allows sins to be forgiven after death. At first glance this appears to be an attractive option, especially in the case of suicide. However it is unbiblical and pastorally dangerous, providing a false comfort, not a real one. A lie, no matter how attractive, is not helpful. For Protestants there have been a variety of answers to this question. Some Protestants have taught that suicide cannot be forgiven. Those who commit suicide are damned forever. In many ways this makes sense.  It is a final act of despair, which would appear to be a rejection of who God is. Plus if there is no forgiveness after death, how can someone commit suicide and be forgiven? Can a person ask God’s forgiveness prior to the act? Does someone’s trust in Christ cover that sin even if it is never confessed? Or does the taking of one’s life indicate a failure to trust in Christ? These are hard questions with no easy answers.

My understanding is that suicide can be forgiven just as murder can be. As a Christian I have willfully committed sinful acts. If I had died before confessing those sins would I have been damned to Hell? Not necessarily so, but it is a dangerous place to be, sitting on intentional unconfessed sin. If I was talking to a Christian (or anyone) considering suicide I would encourage them to not go through with the act. If they said, “God will forgive me.” I would say, “To sin against the light and presume on God’s grace is dangerous.” (I had a friend who went through a dark time. They said the one thing that kept them from killing themselves was they were not sure if they would go to heaven. That was wise thinking.) If someone carried through with it I would have grave concerns about their relationship with God just as I would if a man committed adultery after the same type of conversation. But if I was talking to someone left behind after a Christian they knew committed suicide I would emphasize a different truth. I would tell them that whether or not their loved one is forgiven is ultimately a matter between that person and God. They cannot discern their final fate. They are out of reach now. All those left behind can do is rest in God’s character and kindness, which is good and merciful.

In my next blog post I will address the hard question of whether the refusal to take medicine or treatment to prolong life is equivalent to suicide.

6 thoughts on “Suicide: Hard Questions

  1. “My understanding is that suicide can be forgiven just as murder can be. As a Christian I have willfully committed sinful acts. If I had died before confessing those sins would I have been damned to Hell? Not necessarily so, but it is a dangerous place to be, sitting on intentional unconfessed sin.” This. I feel that none of us are going to die with a “clean slate” and this is considered murder. That’s not to say that a person can’t spit in God’s face with the act of suicide. However, most people are in despair and genuinely feel like everyone they love is better off without them.

    My concern is the definition of blasphemy? Does suicide fall into that definition?


    • Jaime, Thanks for reading and commenting. For non-Christians in despair suicide makes a lot of sense, especially in our nihilistic age where there is nothing beyond the grave. Why not end it all? But for Christians, those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, what does it say about their faith if despair leads to suicide? That is why I understand the older church’s position of suicide not being forgivable though I do not fully agree with it. My goal is to try to be sympathetic to how dark those times can be and yet not give Christians the green light to commit the act.

      We all have sins that go unconfessed. David says in Psalm 19:12, “Cleanse me from secret faults.” There are sins we do not see. You are right none of us die with a clean slate in and of ourselves. Christ makes us clean and that means we completely clean. That is why I think there is hope for a Christian who commits suicide.

      However, to sin against the light is dangerous. It is one thing for someone to sin out of ignorance. It is quite another to sin against the clear teaching of God’s Word after it has been explained to you.

      I am not sure about blasphemy. Why would suicide fit that category? Is it because of the destruction of the image of God in the person? What was your thinking there? It sounds possible.


      • I’m a Christian, and when last year hit with mahor martial problems, getting kicked out of a program I’d worked hard to get into (for an innocent misunderstanding), problems with teenagers, an ex to deal with, I struggled with suicidal ideation. There were times it felt cruel that God allowed me to wake another day. Life felt like one heart break after another, with little reprieve. I longed to be with my saviour, free of pain and turmoil.

        This wasn’t because I didn’t love God, or understand He has a plan for my life. It’s just my life seemed like it was going to be like a less ugly version of Jobs. After a life of abuse, I was tired of being the clay. What kept me here were my children. No one can love them like me, and I worried about them if I were gone.

        For anyone reading this, life does get better. Just hold on. Feelings are feelings, they do change. It won’t last forever. There is good on the other side. Even if you can’t see the light.

        This is a feeling, grounded in zero scripture, but I feel as though God is a God of mercy and motive. I feel as though this comes into play, just like those who “kill themselves” throwing their bodies on a grenade to save a friend. My motive was to be with God, because I head grown weary. Not because I wanted to make someone suffer, or I was angry with God.

        I also wonder if Satans influence doesn’t come into play with distorting truths during a time of oppression.

        As far as blasphemy of the holy spirit, I know it’s the only unforgivable sin. In my mind this equates to all others being forgivable, thereby, not keeping us out of heaven since we dont die with a “clean slate”. However, if I’m to be completely honest, I haven’t heard Really good, biblical sermon on what exactly “blasphemy of the holy spirit” means, which is why I brought it up here. 🙂

        In the end, you’re right, sinning against God knowingly isn’t to be taken lightly. I really like the scripture you shared about cleansing from secret faults!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Jaime, thanks again for sharing. I think a lot of folks go through the same valley. Our Lord is good and he kept you, for which I am grateful.

    Suicide is not blasphemy against the Spirit. Maybe one day I will write up/preach on what exactly that means. That is also why I think suicide is forgivable. Thanks again for reading and I hope it helped a bit.


  3. You write that “Roman Catholics have a theology which allows sins to be forgiven after death” and that this theology “is unbiblical and pastorally dangerous, providing a false comfort, not a real one.” What arguments would you offer for this?

    And, of course, it isn’t just a Catholic theology. Some Anglicans (among others) share it, too—among them, CS Lewis, patron saint of evangelicals.


  4. Pingback: Suicide: Prolonging Life? | Singing & Slaying

Comments are closed.