I recently listened to two sermons on suicide. One pastor yelled at his congregation and demanded they not commit such a horrible sin because he had just lost two congregants to suicide. The second pastor gave a tender and compassionate memorial on God’s sovereignty in knowing the beginning and end of each life and how He would use even this loss, to His glory. This second sermon was much more effective. It reminded me of my son’s memorial service where a young boy got saved, and two others determined not to entertain the idea of ending their life anymore.
The yelling pastor got me thinking of categorizing suicide as a sin. All I had was compassion for my son’s state of mind when he ended his life because I understood the torture his poor brain was in. So why is what he did a sin?
God gave us a simple commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” But when it comes to someone struggling with a mental illness it’s not that simple. My son did kill. He ended his own life. And if Tristan were still here I would argue with him: Life is precious and sacred and we are commanded not to kill it. Please cling to Him until He provides relief. But therein lies the whole problem! His diseased mind was incapable of seeing anything but escape from his torture. He was not “taking” his life but escaping and running from it, giving it back to God because he didn’t want it, couldn’t stand it, “I’m too weak to keep trying” is what he said. Here, You take it, I’m done. After enduring for 6 years, in a moment of weakness, he made the irreversible mistake of discounting the sacredness of the life God had given him.
We aren’t that different, you know. Aren’t we all guilty of discounting the sacredness of the life God has given us? We may not be taking the steps to end it physically. But maybe we’ve ended it practically. We may escape slowly by complaining, or drinking or overeating or drugs. We may escape with lethargy, procrastination, materialism or idolatry.
If suicide is a rejection of life, how many of us reject the circumstances we find ourselves in? Do we really believe that God is using this life, this right here, right now life, for a bigger purpose than our own plans?
Are we willing to be His servants? To really truly do all He asks without caveat or knowing why? In humility accepting the story He’s writing with our lives and not demanding a different plotline?
Dear Yelling Pastor: Can you not see that the same sin of escaping lies in the hearts of all men? If Tristan had sat in your congregation, your loudness would not have helped his mental illness or changed the outcome. I would ask you to remember that the Law addresses not just outward actions (suicide) but the heart (give me a different life) just as Jesus made no distinction between committing sin and harboring sin in the heart.
What most people with suicidal thoughts need is compassion. Mercy and grace go a long way and “the kindness of God leads to repentance.” Romans 2:4b, Matthew 5:21