Updated: Jul 15, 2021
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, ...”
Let’s face it . . . sometimes life just isn’t fair. Regardless of how hard we try to do the right thing, there are times when we are profoundly impacted by other people’s choices. As much as we wish we could be an island at times—totally in control of our own journey and destination—we’re not. On occasion we feel under attack by people who are trying to hurt us, and other times we just get caught up in someone else’s mistake. Regardless of the motive or lack of one, the pain is real.
The death of someone close to us can feel like we’ve taken a knife to the chest. Tragedy can knock us off our feet and steal our very breath. My friends who have suffered the loss of a spouse or child tell me that the pain is indescribable; the death leaves an enormous hole in your heart that only God by His grace can ever heal.
But what if that individual chose to take their own life? What if they made this decision knowing that you would be left to pick up the pieces? How do we even process this crushing anguish?
To add in injury to insult, there is an erroneous and hurtful philosophy that suicide is a mortal sin and everyone who takes their own life goes to hell. To be clear, the idea that everyone who commits suicide goes to hell is NOT supported by scripture and we’ll discuss why. I recognize that the topic of suicide is extremely delicate and deserves to be treated with the highest level of sensitivity. Please understand that it’s not my intention to reopen any wounds but would like to offer some hope to those of us left behind.
Below are three reasons to dispute this common, but erroneous, teaching:
1. It’s how you live, not how you die, that determines your destiny.
Salvation is a free gift that Jesus procured for us by willingly suffering and dying a criminal’s death so that we didn’t have to. The Bible records the only requirements needed to take custody of this gift: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the, you will be saved.” Period. Ephesians 2:8 assures us that we can’t earn it by our actions, and as a result, we can’t forfeit it by our actions. This gift is only God’s to give and take away.
To go a step further, there’s nothing in scripture that tells us that how we die will change anything about the way we lived. I remember a funny story my dad told us (funny in retrospect, anyway) about when he wrecked his motorcycle on his way to Montana. He lost control of his bike on Rt. 70 near Fort Dodge, Iowa and nearly died. Fortunately, he didn’t break any bones that time, but he did lose some skin. He later told us that he could feel his face scraping across the pavement (yikes!). In my dad’s charming but brutally honest way he reminisced that he was really glad that he didn’t die that day because his last words would have been, “Oh, shit!”
2. Murder isn’t the unforgiveable sin.
Regardless of what some well-meaning religious scholars have said, murder is not the unforgiveable sin. To be clear, all sin—or deviation from God’s natural order as outlined in the Creation account, the Ten Commandments in Exodus 10 and other teachings throughout scripture—is wrong and we will pay the consequences. In fact, everyone will need to give an account for ourselves when we die (Romans 14:12). There is a price to pay for committing an act of violence against yourself. However, the Bible is clear that salvation is a gift from God, and it can’t be stolen. He keeps those who love Him safe and sound.
How do we know that God can and does forgive even horrific acts such as murder? Luke 23:34 tells us that when Jesus was dying, He prayed for the men who were trying to kill Him! He knew they didn’t even know that they needed forgiveness, so he asked for it on their behalf.
3. God is closest to us when we’re broken.
To be certain, some individuals who commit suicide will go to hell—a place described in the Bible as a furnace of fire where there will be crying and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42). Tragically, some lost souls are so hell-bent on destroying themselves and others that nothing will get in their way. But, as mentioned earlier, their demise is sealed by their life, not just their death.
But this isn’t true for everyone. I wouldn’t pretend to know what is in the mind of someone hurting so badly that they would take their own life, only God knows. But this is certain: He is closest to us when we are broken. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” In fact, Jesus never rejected anyone in pain or need. And even when we don’t feel close to God, He hasn’t left.
In conclusion, it’s how we live—and not how we die, thankfully—that will determine where we will spend all of eternity. The good news is that if you are reading this, you still have the opportunity to choose where YOU will spend the next life. I encourage you to make a choice today to accept God’s gift to you, because we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.
If this finds you in a dark place where you have considered ending your own life . . . please, please know that you are not alone. Reach out to those who love you and care about you, and this includes me. Don’t resort to a permanent solution for a temporary problem.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK