Answering a Tough Question About Suicide
As a pastor I have had the privilege, on many occasions, to walk with families and individuals through “the valley of the shadow of death.” Death can bring an avalanche of emotions, particularly when accompanied by unanswered questions, as in the case of someone taking their own life.
Last week a 17 year old friend of ours took his life, leaving a wake of confusion and heartache among his family and friends. Although our hearts remain heavy, the funeral service brought some incredible moments of healing and closure as we heard that the event was not the result of depression or bullying, but due to a medication that he should never have been prescribed.
Coleman was a man of God, who was sincerely pursuing God’s plans for His life. His family, his schoolmates and our entire community are heartbroken… but not without hope.
The truth is, as much as we all wish that he was still with us, Coleman is in heaven today.
Which brings me to the purpose of this writing.
There is a misguided, yet widespread belief that says: “Those who take their own lives are doomed to hell.”
Over the years I have heard grieving parents desperately ask if their child was eternally condemned; I have talked with concerned friends who weren’t sure what to believe; and I have recognized the fear in the eyes of loved ones – all because of this poor theology.
I’ve even heard questions this past week from individuals who were concerned about Coleman.
It would be tasteless to use a tragic situation like this to simply “blog” an opinion. But I feel almost obligated to set some minds at ease – that is my heart and desire.
I know sincere, godly people who hold to this belief regarding suicide – not because they are judgmental, but because it’s what they were taught. My words are not intended to pass judgment, but to bring correction to the wrong teaching that has caused tremendous grief and confusion.
The Bible says:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9 NKJV)
The simple truth is this: we are not saved by our works; therefore we cannot be “unsaved” by our works.
Salvation comes not from works, but by faith. When we come to a point of understanding our sinfulness, acknowledge our need for Someone to save us from our sin, and confess Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord; we are saved.
One of my favorite verses in the bible says it like this:
For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (II Corinthians 5:21 NKJV)
Jesus became sin so that we could become righteous. Forgiveness isn’t earned; it is simply received. When we put our faith in Him, we are saved.
You don’t lose your salvation just because you do something wrong. In fact, Jesus gave us salvation BECAUSE we do wrong things. We are saved by faith, not by works.
Suicide is devastating enough. But misunderstanding of God’s word can make things far worse.
Let me say it clearly: Coleman is in heaven. He is at peace. And for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, they will see him once again – this time for eternity.
Although I pray that these words will bring understanding and hope to many people, I specifically desire to bring peace to the hundreds of teenagers who are hurting over the loss of their friend Coleman.
And if you ever find yourself battling suicidal thoughts, I pray that you will first call out to God and seek help from someone you trust. God has a plan for your life – there is hope for you.
I am grateful to have known Coleman, and I’m overwhelmed by the grace and strength of his family. I pray that You continue to surround them with Your love, Your peace, and Your presence.
May Your joy give them strength everyday. Heal their hurt. Bring rest to their souls. Give them hope for tomorrow, and a deep awareness of eternity.
And thank You for turning around what the enemy intended for evil into multiplied opportunities for Your will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
Thank You, Jesus, for the promise of heaven.