I first thought about writing on what the Bible says about Christians who commit suicide in October, 2016. But I did not know how to persuasively, clearly, and convincingly share my thoughts on the issue. As a result, after titling it What Happens to Christians Who Commit Suicide, I abandoned the article.
I am glad I didn’t write the article.
You probably can tell from the title that I was writing about a faceless, nameless and unknown Christian who commits suicide. And the article was more on how much I knew about what the Bible says about suicide. It was about me. Not the men, women, and children who lost a father, a brother and a friend to suicide.
But as I am writing, there is a sharp pain on my left side. My head is spinning around like a broken ferris wheel in an abandoned amusement park. An avalanche of questions is hammering my peanut brain, and I can’t take it. I can feel my body crumbling inside me with each thought and memory.
My question, what happens to Christians who commit suicide was rather naive and childish. I do not know it; I can feel it. And the question what does the Bible say about Christians who commit suicide? It is self-righteous and arrogant.
Suicide doesn’t only take away unceremoniously those we love. Leaving behind a tonne of unanswered questions, it hurts and leaves a wound on the hearts of the bereaved – a wound no amount of rationalization, biblicism or self-righteousness can heal. My heart is wounded.
What do you do when a friend commits suicide?
I rarely read the news these days; it’s negative, depressing, and often fake. But today was different. While doing my research on my next post on Focus Africa: Theological Gleanings From Around The Globe, I saw a headline that caught my attention:
Gospel musician kills self on video after fight with girlfriend
I was angry. And I was pissed. What kind of gospel musician does this dumb thing? Was this girl really worth dying for? This guy was probably a foolish, self-centered and attention-seeking moron. And he called himself a Christian?
I was angry because I thought his actions brings the kingdom of God into disrepute. And I was angry because I believed God hired me as his PR manager. His suicide makes people reject the power of the gospel to bring life where there’s death. Of course, I was a jerk.
Before I could read the article, my heart melted seeing a familiar smiling face. I knew the guy who had committed suicide. And that is an understatement; he was my friend in Bible college. We actually sat together in class.
Smart, soft-spoken, humble, my friend was far from being dumb, egotistic, self-centered, and attention-seeking. He commanded the room when he entered, and everyone loved him. I still remember listening to his debut album with my wife and we both marveled at his talent.
But beneath the smiles, lay a tortured soul. And I bet no one knew it. I only discovered today that the time he didn’t come for class for two weeks he was actually in the hospital. He attempted to commit suicide and was fortunate enough that someone rushed him to the hospital.
When we asked him about where he was, “I was sick.” That’s all he could say. We prayed for him and forgot about it. I could have done better; I could have offered my ears, just to listen to him pour out his heart. Maybe it could have helped him deal with the problems.
If you’re wondering what happens when a Christian commits suicide, this is what happens this side of heaven:
- You’re angry at yourself for no apparent reason
- You blame yourself for not being there for your friend
- You’re filled with guilt because you’re convinced you could have helped if you knew
- You’re filled with shame because you think people now believe you’re a lousy friend
- You have dozens of unanswered questions that you know might remain unanswered
What does the Bible say about Christians who commit suicide?
The Bible does not say much about Christians who commit suicide. Only six suicides are recorded in the Bible, five in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. Interestingly, besides Saul’s armor bearer, all the other five were notable of their wickedness; Judas, Saul, Abimelech, Ahithopel, and Zimri.
But that doesn’t mean all people who commit suicide are wicked. Even the great apostle, Paul once considered committing suicide (2 Corinthians 1:8), “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”
Before you get judgemental on people who commit suicide, you need to remember you don’t know what they went through. I agree with Lewis B. Smedes:
I believe that, as Christians, we should worry less about whether Christians who have killed themselves go to heaven, and worry more about how we can help people like them find hope and joy in living. Our most urgent problem is not the morality of suicide but the spiritual and mental despair that drags people down to it.
-Lewis B. Smedes
I agree with Lewis B. Smedes, “Loved ones who have died at their own hands we can safely trust to our gracious God. Loved ones whose spirits are even now slipping so silently toward death, these are our burden.” And I will add, loved ones who are burdened by guilt and shame after losing a relative or friend to suicide need the liberating Gospel.