When a Christian takes their own life

Hi everyone,
I have had this question come up twice in the past year. I did not know either of the people who committed suicide, but have friends that knew each of them. The question they came with was how can a Christian get to the place where they do this? Both people were teachers in the church, what everyone would call solid Christians. These were people others looked to with questions of faith, one a Christian counselor.

I know that we cannot answer the deep question of why, but what do you tell those who have placed other people on a pedestal and feel that if that person could do this, how are they supposed to live this life in Christ? The other concern of course was " I should have seen it" which I answer that people only show you what they want you to know.

The only answer I can think of is that we are all human. We have a sin nature, and we cannot hold another up to be more than that. We cannot know what people face, or how their faith can be shaken.
As far as " why did they not seek help, they advised others to do that"… my answer was that perhaps because they were looked up to, they felt they could not.

Does anyone have a more insightful answer, or a way to speak to others that are feeling their own faith shaken by the choice of another? Unfortunately this is not uncommon and perhaps we need to be prepared with an answer. Thank you!

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Hello Kathy

Thank you for your heartfelt question. It is always incredibly sad to hear and read of anybody who comes to the point where they feel the only option is to end their life. It is especially hard when they are people who are supposed to have a faith in God which is meant to give them greater peace and hope. I do think the Scriptures certainly help to give us some answers to this question in regard to the depravity of sin and the flesh nature. Two passages about sin that I find often helpful are:

Genesis 4:4-7:The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

James 1:12-15: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

The sin/ flesh nature desires to rule over each person and ultimately kill them. Romans 7 even describes sin almost as a separate entity or force that makes us do things that we really don’t want to do. The problem is that many of us Christians tolerate sin in our lives and so we accept some sins as just part of who we are. We don’t give our wills fully over to Jesus to give Him free-range to sanctify and wash clean every part of us. We are not saved by sin from our ability to remember the Bible and teach, nor are we saved from the power of sin from our wisdom and ability to counsel people well- we are saved through the grace of God. The way all of us are to live is in submitted and surrendered lives to Christ so that He is God of everything of who we are.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

The reason they and many of us don’t seek help with any of our sins (this is not only suicide but any other sin) is because the flesh wants to destroy us ad kill us. It is prideful and selfish, and for healing to occur it takes humility and surrender. It is why small groups for Christians are so vital where we can be honest and vulnerable with each other and actually deeply know each other, where we can confess sin to one another and help each other to be set free from bondage. So very important. A friend of mine got trapped in bondage and was struggling with a sin that he had allowed to become deep rooted and overpower him, he didn’t want to tell anybody what he was struggling with and stopped attending our small group because he didn’t want anybody to know. He eventually became isolated and stopped going to church, not because he didn’t love Jesus, but because he believed the shame would be too great. It got to the point where he had suicidal thoughts and begged God to end his life. You see, the sin nature and the enemy will do everything to destroy you, to divide and conquer. The amazing thing was that The Lord brought him in contact with friends who saw his brokenness and they started having regular meetings, he confessed his sin and the healing was almost immediate. I have seen the before and after in his life and the transformation was miraculous (I hadn’t even noticed what was happening with him myself, I just thought he was become rude and dismissive).

Sorry for this incredibly long answer Kathy but you have asked an important question and I hope what I have said so far is helpful. I would just like to lastly say that when speaking to others that this is something to learn from- it should make us cling to Jesus more, not less. If we have placed people on a pedestal then that is our mistake. The gospel is true, Jesus is our Saviour, not only from the consequence of sin but also its power, and He promises to crucify in us the sin nature if we allow Him (Romans 6:5-7). Let any sin in the church, be it suicide or adultery, be an event that draws people into closer connections, to be honest and sincere with each other, to confess sins, and to show love and grace. Then the healing can begin and Christ’s light can shine through the darkness.

God bless

Brian

Thank you so much Brian for the thoughtful and insightful answer. You are so right, that sin when left in the darkness grows, but when we bring it into the light and confess it, it cannot stay. That surely is a lesson for all of us. Keeping short accounts with God and our fellow travelers clears the road before us and helps us keep our eyes on Jesus and off our circumstances.

Perhaps this will also encourage us to ask questions of our neighbors who seem to want to pull away from relationship, perhaps just to let them know that we are available and care to hear what they are going through.

I think we forget that we have an enemy whose sole desire is to kill us. My son who served in Iraq and Afganaistan surely would have been endangered if he had forgotten that! We have a Savior that is far greater that any sin we can come up with.

Thank you again for your answer, I appreciate the time you took to consider my question.

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Most people tend to forget that the mind also has a physical aspect to it. I do not believe the mind to be completely physical (this to me is a fundamental Christian belief). But, it does interact with the physical world through the brain. Just as an arm can be broken, or a ankle can be twisted, out mind can also sometimes be broken. This leads people to think and act in harmful ways. It is sad, and people who suffer in this way do need to seek help. Seek help just as they would with any other physical ailment.

As for your question:

Following along with what you said. This, to me, demonstrates that there are no “special” Christians. Each of us are in just as much need of salvation as any other and each is fighting battles of which others may know nothing. Being a Pastor or Counselor doesn’t give a person a “special pass” for access to God or a “pass” on spiritual battles. There are no super Christians whose falls places in jeopardy the salvation of anyone else.

I also agree with you that leaders, who often need help themselves, feel they cannot turn to anyone for help themselves. What is ironic is they are demonstrating that others, if they want to be leaders and follow their leaders example, shouldn’t seek help either. This is not the message we should be sending. We should demonstrate that it is ok to seek help. In fact we should be “confessing our sins one to another.” We should have a group of friends we go to for accountability and encouragement.

It is obviously tragic when this happens and we should keep the members of this person’s family and friends in our prayers. We should also pray for those who may be shaken by another’s actions. Often others are tempted to follow in the footsteps of those who commit suicide and we should do our best to stand in the gap for them as well.

You may also find the following resource helpful.

Thank you Joshua, I thought the clip of Ravis answer was so good. I appreciate you sending me to that resource.

That quote that starts with “I said to the man at the gate of the year…” is one I had written in the front of my Bible. Now I see how that fits into this question.

Putting our hand in the hand of God is “better than a light and safer than a known way.” When we face the unknown, the fearful, the darkness, we have our God who walks there with us.

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Often, those close to Father are prime targets for Satan - To bring down a person that others look up to is a win for Satan and worthy of his maximum effort. I feel sure that those mentioned Christians fought hard within themselves and had tearful talks with Father but could not find the strength to live in this world. Our duty as survivors is not to let Satan’s victory over others plant seeds of depression in us as that would be falling into Satan’s arms and further his win… It is not for us to enter the mind of the dead and reason their troubles and make them ours. Trust in Father and Love each other is our mission and as faithful Christian soldiers, we must march to Father’s drum and fight the Good Fight even though some may fall in the battle.

Thank you for your input on this Jack, it is so true that we cannot know the path someone has taken and the pain they have gone through.

I think that helps to be reminded that we are an part of the Lords army and that some of us will fall in battle. I guess that we are curious creatures when something like this happens, we wonder if we can be taken down too, and what exactly happened so we can understand and avoid it. I think it is kind of like if we go by a bad car accident on a clear day, and we try and figure out how that happened. We were not there, so we never really know, but it raises the mortality thing for us. What I heard in the questioners I encountered was fear.

When someone that we think has that strong relationship with the Lord to all outside evidence, could decide to take their own life, which is an affront to Gods sovereignty, we are shaken.

I think that all these comments have helped me to have a better answer for those who find themselves trying to navigate the awful fallout of a choice we don’t understand.

I guess that the fact that a lifetime of faithful service can be so undermined by a single choice ,shows that we need to be vigilant and keep ourselves honest about our struggles so we can seek help when we need it.

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@kedick I wanted to provide some additional resources that emphasize the fact that we are both physical and spiritual beings. I’d recommend checking out some of Rick Warren’s videos on this topic. Warren’s son was a Christian who took his life due to mental illness.

I think you really hit on an important point about reaching out for help when we need it most - both from God and from other people. Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary psychological struggles and is never the right option. At the same time, we never know the heart of the individual who makes such a decision or what kinds of ailments they were battling against, so we must always entrust them into the hands of a good and loving Father rather than try to jump to conclusions about their eternal destiny.

Hope you find some of this helpful :slight_smile:

Mental Health from Rick Warren

Rick Warren’s son took his life and they believe he was a Christian and is with Jesus. You may find some of his material on mental health issues helpful.

Christian Struggle with Depression

These resources point out that the problem can be both spiritual and physical. We should not be reductionistic.

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Hello Kathy, you have some measure of empathy to pose such a question. My perspective comes from being an interventionist of sorts, having heard the same question in bereavement groups time and time again. Yes, the human body has pain thresholds.

One common cliché is often voiced, “You’re a Christian and Christians aren’t supposed to grieve”, offering more heat than help. The pain felt by counselors is often well-hidden, masking a deep desire to help but well short of any ability. God is an ever present help ( Psalm 46:1) and our battles are great, requiring much endurance.

Here’s what I would offer to questioners, from my own perspective as a Hospice group facilitator (retired). We live in a broken world, all having one thing in common, a need for answers. The natural man struggles for balance, connecting heart to mind, while the Christian struggles on a larger scale. Larger in the sense that demons know us, in their quest to overpower us.

Scripture tells us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phillipians 4:13), truly. Yet in our innermost being the devil works, afflicting our soul with pain. Christian counselors must deal with vicarious trauma, standing in the fray with each person they draw alongside. I often cite 2Corinthians 1:3-5, offering encouragement to fellow interventionists, but fully aware of human capacity. Christ won’t berate the co-laborers at His Bema Seat, there will merely be less rewards for those who ended their lives early.

I hope this helps.

H Jerry

Wow, thank you so much Sean for these resources! If we could help people to understand that there is no shame in seeking help and that as you have said this a permanent choice for a temporary problem perhaps some will find another way to find peace.

Maybe by being more aware that even people who we think could never make that choice still do, could help us reach out to someone who feels no ability to cope with the gift of life God has given.

I agree that we cannot and should not try to determine what happens to people after death. This is a mystery to us and only God Himself holds the answer.

Thank you Jerry, that is helpful. I am sure in your work you have seen how these things work in depth. I am sure that God has used you in the trenches of being with those who are dying, in such amazing ways.

I know that our enemy knows us in ways we do not know ourselves and so it is so important for us to remember that Christ knows more yet, and that we have to turn to Him no matter what things look like or how dark our future here on earth looks.

I wonder, as you worked in Hospice, how you see the ways in which people who desire to live and are dying, is so different from one who chooses death as a way out of pain? The one dying would give anything to live, and the one choosing death cannot find a way to live. We are complicated creatures, Praise God that we have a Savior!

Yes Kathy, it is a marvelous field to work in, especially as a Christian. The dying will sometimes bear witness to what they see, across the threshold, without any medicinal influence. On two occasions have I witnessed patients slip into another realm, calmed by something I could not see; but they could.

Those in pain are literally that, immersed in pain, as opposed to feeling pain. Our bodies can ache, but when having a coronary, we are IN pain. The degree of our pain threshold varies between individuals, depending on our abilities to cope. Each of us have ways of coping, but the human body does change, an obvious truth proven through aging.

Some notable authors that have helped me see the Why, beyond my biblical refinements, with many more having come alongside…
Dr. Viktor Frankl……………………Man’s Search For Meaning
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross…………authored many books about death and grief.
Dr. Eben Alexander…………………Proof of Heaven
Trudy Harris, RN…….………………Glimpses of Heaven
Cathleen Fanslow-Brunjes M.A., RN…The Four Stages of Hope

Kathy, I pray others will help you along your path, bearing you up as well.

Jer