This past week we all heard the tragic news of Rick Warren’s son’s suicide. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family as they mourn this painful loss.
Suicide is not a topic talked about in the church even though Christians can be tempted to see suicide as an escape from life’s pain when depressed. Today I am actually presenting on elderly suicide in the church, a problem that is more prevalent in older people than in the young. Suicide is the cause of 11 out of 100,000 deaths in the US (NIMH) and impacts all ages.
I am often asked to comfort those who have experienced suicide in their families. The question of eternal destination comes up. Eternity with God is based on one thing- does a person claim Jesus Christ to be his or her Savior? Scripture is clear that there is one way to heaven, through the saving grace of Christ. No act, no one, can take salvation away from a person. Salvation is not based on works, but on the work of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:2-24).
In those cases in which the person does not claim Christ as his or her personal Savior, we still don ‘ t know what transpires in those last moments of life. So it is not out place to make a judgment call on someone ‘s life.
So why would someone who professes Christ commit suicide? The answer is found in Scripture as well. The temptation of suicide is a satanic one. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, Saul killed himself after consulting the witch, and Judas hanged himself after Satan entered him. Jesus ‘ response to Satan was to resist, knowing this was not God’s plan for his life. In a moment of desperation, a person can give in to temptation and cut short the purpose of God in his or her lie. He or she can momentarily believe a life of hopelessness.
In a helpful sermon, given years ago by Pastor Jack Hayford, he gives four areas of help for those touched by suicide:
1) Release the guilt, the anger and the shame that comes. Release it all into God’s mercy and hands. People can succumb to temptation and give in to despair when depressed, but you are not bound to carry the guilt or shame that can accompany suicide. God does not override our free choice.
2) Recognize the thought of suicide in not sin, but a temptation that is demonic. Satan is the father of lies. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus can to overcome the darkness and deliver us from all temptation. Christ in us can bring victory,
3) Resist the devil. Put on the helmet of salvation. Daily, renew your mind with the truth of God ‘s word. In Christ, there is always hope and peace to be found. Exalt Christ in every detail of your life, honor the power of the cross and let it work deliverance in your life. Know the warning signs of depression and stay in the truth.
4) Surround yourself with fellow believers who can lift you up when you are tempted to give in. Link together and stand firm on the Word. We need each other when we face our pain and the lies of the enemy.
As a therapist who has treated many with depression, I would add that depression is treatable in many cases. Don’t be afraid or feel stigmatized for taking medication if it helps. Recognize that some types of depression are more resistant than others but don’t give in to despair. What Pastor Warren told us all is still true, God has a purpose for every life. Don’t cut that purpose short.
Dr. Linda Mintle is the author of Breaking Free from Depression, depression treatment from a biblical perspective.