Friday, October 26, 2012

Can a person love Jesus, and still commit suicide?

In continuing the blog series “Christianity and Suicide”, one of the most common questions centers around how a person can love Jesus, and still commit suicide. It comes out in statements like, “I thought he was doing so good”, and “but, he seemed like he had such a strong faith.”

Often, suicide becomes a question about one’s faith. Can a person genuinely follow Jesus and still have such deep pain that it can end in death? If so, did Christianity “work”? Was his or her faith real? How can someone be so “changed” in one sense, and still be so “unchanged” to the point of death? 

Possibly the best case study of a character in the Bible would be King David. Here are a few things we know about the famous ruler of Israel.:
  • He was a great kid who loved God - 1 Samuel 17
  • He married the love of his life - 1 Samuel 11
  • He was well loved by others - 1 Samuel 20
  • He loved to dance, sing, and worship God - 2 Samuel 6
Here is what else we know about King David:
  • He had been a murderer and adulterer in his past - 1 Samuel 11
  • He was plagued by fear often - Psalm 3
  • He felt like God wouldn’t answer him - Psalm 4
  • He felt like God was angry at him - Psalm 6

David was so plagued by his emotion, that he often wrote and contemplated death.  David writes, 

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long? Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.  [Psalm 6:1-7]

The desperation in David is the same desperation that leads someone to the brink of suicide. The combination of being plagued by the past, and a perception of separation or distance from God can leave a person feeling like there is no other option. Imagine the radical swing from the high emotions of dancing and singing in worship, to the lows of feeling distant from God, and you begin to see how the “energetic” and “happy” can quickly shift to the desperate and empty. These two terms in quotations are the words that were often used to describe my good friend who just took his own life. 

Another man in the Bible named Job writes this, 

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I the sea, or a sea monster, that you set a guard over me? When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. [Job 7:11-16]

Job was known to be an amazing man of faith and follower of God, but like David, he struggled with the turmoil in his life. The tumult of pain in his head was too much for him at times. He uses words like anguish and bitterness that he cannot even escape in his sleep.

Others, like Moses and the Sons of Korah, often struggled with times where death seemed like a better answer than life. As Job says above, “I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones.” Even Jesus while in his humility prayed, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.”

To be perfectly clear, I am not advocating for suicide. I believe taking your own life is never the right answer. However, when the question is asked if a person can love Jesus faithfully, and still want to die, the answer is yes. Sadly, and regrettably, the answer is yes.

The question that we are left with is what makes one person who deals with great depression and chooses to live, different from the one who chooses to take their own life? 

Hope. When a person loses hope, they have nothing left. 

It is said that a person can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but not a single minute without hope.

My prayer for you is that you never lose hope. 

“We should ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and raise it up when it is overthrown.” 
~ John Calvin