Every human being, without exception, is a potential suicide. If we look at suicide as a process of self-judgement, condemnation, and execution, every human being walks down this path, at least some of the way.
We’ll begin our investigation with these words from the Bible: “…if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves…” (1 Corinthians 11:31). We are facing very complex requirements in God’s words. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” God says in Isaiah 1:18, which means, “You judge Me, and I will judge you.” God never judges without letting Himself be judged, and without subjecting to this judgement the very judgement He makes: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge”.
Therefore, what do you think about God? What do you think He is like? What do you have to say about what He does or does not do? Are your conclusions just and true?
Suicide: God’s judgement
“Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.” Here, in this call to judgement, something amazing is to be noted: God’s judgement is not directed against people, but in their favour. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” It is not God who judges me, but the one who wants to destroy me. He judges the sin in my life.
I’ve sat next to the operating table nine times, working as a translator, for a good friend of mine who is a neurosurgeon. During an operation, I heard him cursing terribly. Although it disturbed me, I continued to listen and pay attention to him, and finally I sighed out of relief. The doctor was cursing the disease, not the patient. I was glad I didn’t react in a hurry, but thought of God instead. Far from turning against me, His dreadful judgement is directed against my biggest enemy, sin, which is ruining my life. This is what God judges, with a judgement only God can make. This is what He condemns, with a condemnation only He can give: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” For me, however, God wants happiness and salvation.
The Devil’s judgement
Unlike divine judgement, the Devil’s judgement is not directed at my sins, but at me. He avoids sin, but wants to lead me to death. “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him”; (him, not his sin). God, who understands where this judgement is going and what its effects will be, showed indignation: “The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?'” “‘Take off his filthy clothes’. Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you'”. In other words, God said: “Rebuke sin, not Joshua. May your iniquity end up in fire and brimstone, and I will put fine garments on you, and a crown of glory on your head, for your sin is atoned for”.
Martin Luther King lived through such a moment. Satan used his sin as a weapon against him. The devil did not want to remove sin from Luther’s life, but Luther himself. Looking at his own sins, as the inkwell he had just hurled crashed against the wall, Luther saw the price paid for his atonement. “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, cleanses us from all sins,” he cried out in the triumph of faith over depression. “That is why I tell any man: do not let yourself be judged, condemned or executed by the devil. Go to trial with the One who says, ‘Come now, let us settle the matter'”.
It is almost impossible to discern, with our finite minds, whose judgement we position ourselves under. The devil projects his fake judgement, so similar to the great original, onto us. But Jesus left us a sure test: “By their fruit you will recognize them”. To what or to whom is your judgement directed? To your sins or to yourself? What does it expose? Sin or the sinner? Who would it want to destroy in the end? You or your sin?
The suicide question
During one of my pastoral visits to the Craiova penitentiary, I was at a table surrounded by life-sentenced detainees. I noticed a silent young man who had a gloomy look. Those next to him urged him: “Come on! Ask the pastor!”. Those grey eyes rose uncertainly, and the young man asked me, “Is it a sin to commit suicide?”. “Yes, it is a sin that is punished by death, virtually at the same time it is committed,” I replied. The young man was undeterred. “But if I pray to God before doing this, can He forgive me?”
This fragile soul did not know the story of the three men, among many others, who sought God’s help to end their lives, and were flatly refused.
Moses — under the pressure of his failure and inadequacy as a leader, uttered these words: “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favour in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
Elijah — discouraged by his moral failure, “…while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord’, he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'”
Jonah — faced with the bankruptcy of his faith, prayed to the Lord, and said, “‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.'”
I told the young man, who was on the brink of death, “Trying to get God’s cooperation in what you want to do means making God your accomplice in committing a crime, and this is not possible.” “Sir”, he continued, “don’t you see that there is no other escape for me than to take my life? If I was released now, people would kill me on the street. I am sentenced to life, so I am a dead man walking!”. “Taking your life is not an escape,” I told him. “It is a fatal aggravation of the problem. It is its transfer and multiplication in the hearts of others, on those who love you the most.”
There was great tension around the table, many sighs and helpless looks. “You’re right,” I finally told him. “From here, from this situation, only death can get you out.” Shocked expressions, and gasps of horror… “But don’t hurry. At this crossing of death there are two ways to die: either God will lead you to die in the eyes of your sin, or the devil will make you die in your sin. Which way do you want to go?” “I don’t understand,” he replied. I explained it to him. “Oh, now I understand.” Bible study materials sat on the table as silent witnesses. “Give me one of those pamphlets,” he said to me at the end. The others around sighed in relief.
The double verdict
Judgement is always followed by conviction or acquittal. But God’s judgement is followed by both. He condemns sin with divine power and sends it into the eternal fire, but absolves the sinner and calls them to enter into the joy of their Master. God reconciled people with Himself, not sin. There was never an armistice between God and sin, but through Christ, He brought about endless peace between Him and the fallen.
This is the Devil’s ultimate effort: to create confusion in this area. So many people live under the shadow of a condemnation that is not directed against them and that is so misunderstood. These sufferers need the good news of God’s judgement, by which the sinner is saved and sin is condemned for eternity. “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh.” After the sentence is read, the execution follows. Has sin been executed? Yes, sin was executed in the person of the One who became sin for us. “‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.'”
Not only was sin executed in Jesus, but so was the death that flowed from it: “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” This is the real trial of sin in us and this is the way to resolve any situation.
Evil carefully imitates good. The difference is that the devil subtly shifts the guilt of sin onto the sinner, so they find no reason to live. He gives them the tiny promise of deliverance which is, in fact, the ultimate slavery—that of death. Then the sinner condemns himself to death or tries to escape from the burden of guilt, shame, and real or imaginary failure through death by setting up his own execution. If this individual refuses and opposes the last rays of divine grace and hope, nothing will stop him from carrying out his plan. Self-judgement, self-condemnation and self-execution are presented to the individual either as law or as grace; that is, justice for his deeds or mercy for the situation in which he finds himself. Throughout this process, God is denied or accused. The devil appears as a just judge or as a benefactor, in contrast to God, who is perceived as not caring about the situation, seeming to even provoke it, by direct action or indifference.
Aware of what God’s presence would mean in such a situation, the first thing the devil is trying to secure is the individual’s breakaway from heaven. When people cease to communicate with heaven, the process of suicidal judgement, condemnation, and execution begins. In fact, the individual does not take his life when he is executed, but when he breaks the connection with God or refuses to believe in His love and makes himself a god in the judgement, condemnation and execution of his own being. There is no doubt that people do not have the approval of their conscience for what they are about to do, but what can they do without God? “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
The survivors of suicide attempts are, in a way, people who have returned from the dead to testify to the living about their reality. Some of them admit exactly this: that they knew what they wanted to do was wrong, that they tried to get out of this murderous whirlwind, like in a dream where you cry desperately, but no sound is heard. At one point, they lost control of the situation and felt totally helpless. They asked themselves questions which they answered in a way that they later described as insane. Actress Michelle Collins wondered, “Would anybody miss me if I wasn’t here? Foolishly I somehow decided no one would”. After the failed attempt, Collins noticed her two-year-old daughter staring at her with a sad look.
There are several well-known cases of suicide in the Bible.
Abimelech – killed on request.
Saul – chose to end his life in order to prevent himself from falling into the hands of people of another faith. His denominational hatred was greater than his desire to give life a chance.
Ahithophel – an extremely influential career warrior and diplomat: “Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God.” No one can remain unaffected when they walk in God’s shoes. “When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb.”
Zimri – assassinated King Elah and reigned in his place for seven days. However, he was immediately confronted with a state coup that led to the occupation of the Tirzah fortress. “When Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the palace on fire around him. So he died”.
The general idea of these cases is conveyed by two elements: God is excluded in all of them and all are the result of failure, pride or shame, religious fanaticism or moral failure. In none of these cases, and in no other case that reaches such an outcome, is God taken into account and is involved in solving the real or imaginary crisis. Even if we cannot equate the action of a mentally ill person with the action of one who kills and then kills himself, or with the action of one who is too proud and refuses to reap what they have sown, or with the action of one who does not survive betrayal (Jesus was betrayed), we can, however, put an equal sign before what could have been the exodus from that situation: “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.
Suicide: changing direction
People have a great chance of being stopped on this path. God has placed in each of us the ability to believe, to judge, to reason, to compare, to change our minds, and to change a direction that may have seemed certain.
What can you do when you hear a cry that ruins your soul and urges you to take your life? First of all, remember that it is not the voice of your heart, but the voice of someone else who uses your heart. It was not the demonised man in Gadara who cried out to Jesus, but the demon inside of him. However, if your heart has become your enemy and the cause of ruin, receive and believe this word: “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” Our hearts cease to condemn us when we recognize that God is greater than our hearts. As soon as our hearts stop condemning us, we turn to God with even greater trust and love. But whether or not to recognize that God is greater than our hearts remains a matter of choice.
Julie Gossack has five times endured the pain of losing a loved one in the family as a result of suicide. Her conclusion deserves our attention: “Suicide is not a genetic trait nor is it a family curse. Suicide is a sinful choice made by an individual. This statement is neither unloving nor disrespectful. It is the truth. I dearly loved my family members that committed suicide, but their choices were sinful and not righteous.” This kind of death can only occur after the God we believe in has “died”. As long as He “lives” and the person who believes in Him chooses to live, not for something that recommends or makes them superior, but for Someone in whom they believe and who “lives” for them, they will live: “Because I live, you also will live.”