A person close to me recently lost their battle with suicide. What does the Bible say about suicide? This person was in and out of church. Where does their soul go? How do I cope with their loss? How do I help their family?
The sudden loss of a close friend is disconcerting enough. But there is an added weight when a person loses their struggle with suicide. Most churches have a negative approach to it. Most teach a person who loses their struggle with suicide is a sinner condemned to Hell.
Almost no one wants to lose their battle with suicide. Reasons I have heard for it range from
- People feeling like nobody has ever experienced what they’re going through and nobody understands,
- Nobody is listening to the clues and hints that the person gives, no one takes seriously the cries for help, or
- They may feel complete loneliness in a room full of people who care about them.
The Bible does not specifically address suicide. There are no examples of anyone doing it in the Bible. We rely on church doctrine and belief and it is slightly different from church to church.
When I address the subject as a pastor, I mention two areas that are the reasons for the church’s negative view of suicide.
- For a Christian, suicide is a selfish act because the person is removing themselves from God’s plan for their life. Every one of us influences others. God is using us even in the midst of trials, suffering, and pain.
- Because a person struggling with suicide decides to make a different plan from God’s plan, they’re basically claiming that they know better than God. It is an act of pride. This sounds harsh but God’s plan is not finished until we go to heaven his way. He can’t use a person that is not present to influence others.
One of the messages I share with people who have suicidal thoughts or tendencies is that God wants to use them to influence others. We all have a story that God is writing and the final chapter is yet to come. Even in the worst situations we face, God is using us to minister to others. When we look back, we will see the beautiful tapestry he is weaving with our lives.
In the midst of the pain a person who loses their battle with suicide is not thinking clearly. The trauma of their experience seems too heavy to bear anymore. But there is a reason that everyone experiencing these feelings reaches out. They don’t want to go through with it. They are looking for a way out of the pain and trauma of their experience.
One of the hardest things to face is the loss of a close friend from suicide. The relationship is disconnected prematurely and permanently. People experience everything from shock and trauma to disbelief to anger. But most people feel a great sadness.
The church should be the place that anyone in pain turns to. But that is not always the case. If a person believes all suicides are immediately condemned to Hell, there is no hope. This leaves a burden on the soul of the living.
No one can tell you the eternal resting place of the soul of a suicide. Only God is the Judge. But different views have emerged in the church about suicide. Martin Luther, the great Reformer, suggested demonic oppression and influence could affect a person’s mindset and spiritual disposition.
Mental health professionals have shown that some people with mental illnesses cannot think maturely about all of their decisions. So suicide comes down to a mental and spiritual crisis. It seems so overwhelming that the person gives in to their fears and thoughts.
Before they lose their battle with suicide, we must notice whatever clues or direct statements they make. If we do not recognize or take seriously their cries for help before they give into their thoughts and feelings, we will miss the opportunity they are waiting for us to seize. There are resources that address their situations.
They may feel that a mental health professional is too clinical or cold to deal with their situation. It is a lie of the devil that no one else has gone through what you are going through. There are survivors of suicidal thoughts and tendencies who know and understand.
They may also feel uncomfortable with going to a spiritual leader like a pastor because of the church’s views on suicide. If they are under demonic influence, they will not seek out Christian leaders. But this should never be.
If this close friend has already lost her battle with suicide, you may need spiritual counsel to cope with the saddened and final loss. The church is getting better at addressing suicide without condemning it.
Most importantly, you must not think you were the cause of their actions or that you alone would be the superhero who swoops in and saves them. If they didn’t let you in, there’s no way you could have helped them. Even if you missed some clues, you can’t blame yourself for what they did. We are all human. We all miss things and make mistakes. It’s better to leave it in God’s hands.
Finally, how can you help the family? They will ask questions in their shock that don’t require answers. People in shock ask questions because they feel lost and don’t know what to do about the situation. If you provide answers, they may actually anger or push the person away.
It’s just like when a wife asks her husband, “Does this make my butt look big?” There’s no good answer to that question. When I pastor anyone who has lost a relative, they are not asking me to solve their theological questions about death.
The best thing you can do for the family is to be there. Be the shoulder they cry on and friend they can call 24/7. Make a meal for them or take them out to eat. Listen to what they have to say. But most of all, be present when you are with them. They have a lot on their mind and a lot to work out. Some scriptures you may be able to share with believing families are Psalm 34:18 and 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.