Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Who hasn't been affected by someone they know who has committed suicide?
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
Each year 44,193 people die from suicide.
For every suicide 25 attempt it.
On average there are 121 suicides per day.
Firearms account for almost 50% of suicides.
The rate of suicide is highest in middle age - white men in particular. (Other source says, "The percent increase in suicide rates for females was greatest for those aged 10–14, and for males, those aged 45–64.")
Did those statistics shock you? They did me.
This 4/22/16 article in the New York Times says, "Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in 30 years..."
I know too many people who have had their world torn apart by a loved one committing suicide. Mostly parents whose child has done it. Such grief. Such heartbreak. And they beat themselves up; "Why didn't I get them the help they needed?"; "Why didn't I know they were that depressed?"; "What could I have done differently?"
The saddest thing to do is to go to a funeral of someone who has taken their life. You feel grief at the obvious, but also anger at the waste.
I once had a student in a wheelchair. After I got to know him, he told me his story. His father who had been an elder in their church and who had raised his sons in a Christian home had lost his job. He sunk into depression. (Christians are not immune to depression and suicide.) His family knew he was depressed, but they didn't realize the extent. They didn't realize how much he needed help. One weekend when his little brother was home from college, late at night, he awoke to the sound of a gunshot. His father had shot and killed his mother. Then his father came into his room and shot him. Then went into his brother's room and shot his brother. Then his father killed himself.
The younger brother when he heard the first gunshot dialed 911. The parents were dead. Both sons lived, but were paralyzed and in wheelchairs. The man telling me the story held onto the hope of God. This man showed me a faith which astounded me. His brother was the opposite. He wanted nothing to do with God. He was bitter and hateful and had spiraled downward.
Two people raised in the same home, two people experienced the exact same horrific thing, two entirely different reactions.
Many years ago a Christian woman whose adult Christian son committed suicide was in the same Bible study group I was in. I've witnessed her grief over the years. It breaks my heart. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I remember her talking early on in our friendship about her son and saying that she couldn't wait to one day be reunited with him in heaven. Then she added that some people believe that if you commit suicide, you can't go to heaven. That it is an unpardonable sin. But she doesn't believe that. She knows her son was a believer.
I remember at the time being brought up short in my mind. Somewhere in my past I heard that committing suicide was one of those sins that banned your entry into heaven. Where had I heard that? It had always been there in my mind as long as I can remember. At the time she said it I was fairly new in this Bible reading thing and fairly new in my walk with the Lord. What did the Bible say? What is it I believe?
During this time period in my life when I would come across something like this which challenged my beliefs, I would go into research mode to figure out what I truly believe. I would read articles by reputable theologians of various denominations. I would mull over what they said. (I still do this, but not to the degree as when I was new to reading the Bible. I have done it with questions like 'Will our beloved pets go to heaven?'; 'Do people become angels when they die?';...)
I concluded in my mind that someone who committed suicide, if they were a believer, can go to heaven and be with the Lord. My reasoning was is that we are all going to die with un-repented sins. And I believe in the mercy of God. He knows our thoughts, our hearts, our pain. Look, I'm certainly no sinless person, but I know I will be with the Lord one day. I believe in His promises. And perhaps I am just more sympathetic to people who find themselves in that deep dark pit and who see no other way out. I've been there.
But don't just take my word for it. Years later I came across this in my English Standard Version Study Bible under Biblical Ethics: an Overview.
Suicide is murder on oneself, and it is prohibited by the command, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). It is a serious sin against God and brings immense, lifelong grief to loved ones who are left, but the Bible nowhere teaches that suicide is a unique and unforgivable sin that prevents a person who has lived by faith in Christ from being saved.
I had concluded the same thing years earlier. I have since read the Bible and know what it says and doesn't say. I still agree. I know I am not to judge someone else's salvation. That is God's job. But do I think my friend will be reunited with her son in heaven? I do.
Why am I writing this? I don't really know. Suicide was mentioned in my women's study this week. It brought all of this to my mind. I felt the Spirit prompting me and I've learned when God prompts me to do something, I should do it. I believe He has a reason although I don't know what it is.
Perhaps it is to comfort someone whose loved one committed suicide.
Perhaps it is to challenge you to figure out what it is you believe.
The peace that comes from knowing God, knowing His Word, knowing what He wants of me, knowing how much He loves me and is with me, that I can call on Him for help when I am in scary cavernous pits - well, that came from the years spent figuring out what it is I believe.
I called on Your name, O LORD, out of the lowest pit. You have heard my voice, "Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help." You drew near when I called on You; You said, "Do not fear!" O Lord, You have pleaded my soul's cause; You have redeemed my life.
And for that I am eternally grateful.