What Does Our Faith Teach Us?

Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Luke 5:31-32 – Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (NIV)

Not long ago I found myself standing with a family suffering many adverse trials. The whole world seemed to be crashing in around them. The last straw came when I received a phone call and was told of the death of a brother. I expressed my sympathy and asked whether he had been ill for a long time. The reply was simple and sad: "No, my brother took his own life."

I had no answer to give — no feeling that I could express. I could only think that we are not to judge.

What does our Christian faith teach us to help us at this point? Suicide is seldom talked about by the clergy, and when it is discussed, often it is dealt with simplistically. This is a subject we do not talk about, but it is something we should share with those who struggle with it.

While returning from Florida this spring, I had an opportunity to attend a seminar. During the question-and-answer period, the very subject was brought up. The question was put this way, "Is a Christian who commits suicide still saved?"

Dr. Ray Ortlund, Jr., Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, offered the following response:

    Through the centuries there have been significant men and women of God who have struggled with deep depression. John Bunyan did, William Cowper did, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon did.

    In our generation we've discovered these chemical disorders that can have an emotionally depressing effect upon the human being. We are grateful for the medications that can help people.

    I believe that there are among God's true blood-bought eternally beloved saints, people who struggle in this way — not only for chemical reasons, but for other reasons as well.

    If, in the pit of depression, one of God's saints takes his life, I don't believe that he loses his salvation.

    I do believe that is a very serious sin. The scripture says, "Thou shalt not kill." (Exodus 20:13 KJV) But, I believe the blood of Jesus covers all of our sins.

    Suicide is a very serious sin, but it is not the ultimate sin. The ultimate sin is rejecting Jesus. There are some — I believe — some of God's true and dearly beloved saints, who are simply overwhelmed. And they may, to their injury, find the means to self-destruction when they are in some terrible pit. And I believe that if they do take their life they will go immediately to be with the Lord, to be forever, to be released — no more depression. That's the triumph of God's grace.

I am grateful that I heard this response, which both gave me more insight on the subject, and brought me comfort.

We have those who struggle to maintain life in the face of death, and we have those who give it away. We must pray to try to understand both.

The pain and the sorrow of it all must be etched deeply into the minds of those left behind. There is anger at being left alone; sometimes there is shame and guilt. Was there something we could have done to prevent this tragedy? One never forgets. It seems so futile and so unnecessary.

It is very important that we forgive those who have taken their own lives or we will be destroyed ourselves, from within. We must leave it with God.

1 Corinthians 13:12 – Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (NIV)

Jesus said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone." (John 8:7 NIV)

Prayer: O Lord our God, we are not all as strong and upright in our faith as we should be. Hold Your humble servants who sorrow in their loss. Comfort them, touch them; we lift them up to You. May Your grace abide in them. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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About the author:

Anne Russell <annerussell80@gmail.com>
Brampton, Ontario, Canada

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