Tough Talk About Suicide
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT
Can we have a real conversation about suicide?
We read the devastation of suicide in the news every day. Just last night, well-known pastor, Jarrid Wilson, of Harvest Christian Fellowship in California took his own life. It was Suicide Awareness Day. I think you’d agree with me that this is a great tragedy. This tragedy, suicide, has reached epidemic proportions in our culture. Yet, we seem afraid to talk about it. Or, if we do talk about it, the things we say are often well-intended, but just not true. It is the elephant in the room that won’t go away or disappear no matter how hard we try to stuff it into the closet.
It’s still there.
What I think or have to say about suicide doesn’t really matter. It’s what God says that matters. But, my heart is breaking. I’m guessing yours is, too.
We’ve all been touched by it.
I’ve lost some people I thought I knew well to suicide. My friend, Sharon. She seemed strong to me. I never knew she struggled. She had been such an encouragement to me. My former pastor, Phil Lineberger. He had been head of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, a Baylor regent, someone with profound influence. I guess I didn’t know them so well. Clearly, they didn’t know God so well. If they did, He would’ve been their source, Savior, anchor, hope . . . right?
That is what we preach, isn’t it?
Several people have said they believe Jarrid is now free. But, is he, really? Did suicide free him? I understand that they may have said this in an effort to find some level of comfort. But, it is dangerous and untrue. Statements like this make it easy to understand why suicide has become such an epidemic--especially if this is the message coming from our churches. Suicide doesn’t free anyone. That’s just another lie that Satan wants you to believe. Jesus is the One who frees—the only One who frees. Read Return From Tomorrow by George C. Ritchie and Elizabeth Sherrill, and get a glimpse of what happens to the soul of someone who has committed suicide. It is anything but freedom.
Many of us may have our Elijah moments of struggle, but can we recognize and call to task the evil source from which these thoughts come and not psycho-babble the spiritual warfare far, far away? The devil would like for us to do that.
The mind is the battlefield.
It makes me angry. Furious. Powerfully furious . . . to hear people say it’s okay to be depressed and suicidal as a follower of Christ. . . that many good Christian people are depressed and suicidal. I’ve even said it, myself, in searching for words of comfort . . . the wrong words. It is an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one, to be a good Christian who’s suicidal. I’ve even heard people twist passages of Scripture to demonstrate Jesus as suffering from depression--something only evil would teach. May God forgive us all.
But, may I tell you something else?
When I was growing up, my mother struggled with severe depression to the point that she was hospitalized for a year. I was only seven, but I remember it well. Being without a mother that long is something you don't forget. Yet, when she really began to seek the Lord with her whole heart, she was a changed person. You would have never known she ever encountered a day of depression in her life. She was full of the peace, hope and joy that only a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ can bring. The change was very real, though her circumstances--the pain that led her to that place--never changed.
People struggle for different reasons, and there's no doubt that we need each other. But God longs to be our ultimate source of strength. He is our ultimate source of strength and every good thing. And, He is very real. But, since I started out saying my opinion doesn’t matter, let’s get to the one that does matter—God’s.
The Holy Bible has a lot to say about life and death, about our minds and what controls them, about suicide, about hope. And, while much of what happens to us at the point of death remains a mystery, there is still much we do know from Scripture about these things.
First, we find throughout Scripture how valuable our lives are to God.
Luke 12:7 tells us, "And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows."
John 3:16 says, "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." Jesus sacrificed His own life for us because of His great love for us--the great value He places on each and every human life. We can't allow evil to twist this truth.
1 Peter 2:9 defines us this way, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." Isn't that beautiful!
Second, we don’t have the God-given right to take a life—any life—including our own.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us, "Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body."
Exodus 20:13 commands us, “Thou shalt not kill."
Third, a real personal relationship with Jesus Christ fills us with peace, hope and joy. That is a spiritual reality. It is truth. It is not dependent on how we feel at any given moment. Faith, trust is the foundation of any good relationship. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is the same in this respect.
John 14:27 tells us, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid."
Romans 15:13 explains the Holy Spirit's work in our lives, "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."
Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him."
Fourth, we have a real adversary, the devil. He is at the root of suicide and the darkness of depression. He takes shreds of truth and twists them, wraps them in lies.
Jesus, when talking to unbelievers in John 8:44-45 said, "For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!"
When God spoke to Cain in his struggle before killing his brother in Genesis 4:7, He said, "You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” If we abide in Christ, He enables us to master sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, instead of sin mastering us.
2 Timothy 1:7 gives us this promise, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."
Romans 8:5-6 says it so clearly, "Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace."
And fifth, God has a purpose for your life. The enemy doesn't want you to know that, or he would lead you to believe you've messed up to the point that your usefulness is over, but that's just another lie. As long as God has given you breath on this earth, He has a purpose for your life.
Jesus tells us in John 10:10, "The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."
And, Acts 2:28 tells us, "You have made known to me the paths of life. You will fill me with joy in your presence."
The struggle, the temptation is not sin. Giving in to, dwelling on, committing the act is sin. To take a life—any life—is the ultimate act of selfishness, faithlessness and evil. It is stepping into the shoes of God. His Word reminds us that it's not where we start, but how we finish that matters (2 Timothy 4:7).
So is Jesus Christ enough for you, or not?
"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise." Hebrews 10:23