Last week a Christian husband and father ended his life by his own hand. Later in the week a young Christian university student ended her life too. How can we even begin to understand what would drive a faithful Christian to commit suicide? Is this a sin that cannot be forgiven? What can we say about a person’s spiritual state who has died by suicide?
Sometimes, a Christian can feel that life is so over-whelming and hopeless, so they think that their loved ones would be better off, rather than having them moping around and being a burden, that they act out of this despair and put an end to their life. It isn’t necessarily a lack of faith or trust in the Lord. But rather their thinking has become distorted and warped. They can still have a strong faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross on their behalf, and yet not be able to see a way out of their particular circumstance. If you have never suffered from deep depression, it can be almost impossible to understand how anyone, let alone a Christian can reach such a crisis. Sadly, more and more people are choosing suicide to bring an end to the difficulties they face each day.
Someone who is suffering from depression and/or anxiety needs to see a medical practitioner for help. They may be prescribed medication to help or offered counselling to work through the issues that are at the bottom of their despair. Strong family/friend/church support is essential too. However, this support may be not accepted, or they may even push people away, preferring their own sad company. A person who is deeply depressed may find it very difficult to relate to others, to socialise with people, and to show love, even to their closest family. In turn, those closest to them can feel unloved and uncared for, and when the person commits suicide, can feel totally abandoned and guilt-ridden (If only they had done more!).
So how does this all work for a Christian? Shouldn’t they just put their trust in the Lord? If they did, they wouldn’t get depressed, right? Isn’t it a lack of faith? A person can have a strong faith and yet experience deep depression. As I wrote in a previous post, depression lies to you and distorts reality into a twisted version where hopelessness, darkness and lack of life-purpose becomes the norm.
John Piper shared a very helpful meditation he gave at a funeral for a Christian who had committed suicide. He addresses the “unforgivable sin” as the continual rejection of God’s Spirit, as a persistent and continual denial and resisting of the Holy Spirit. We all die with sins we haven’t repented of or confessed and yet we have confidence that we, who love the Lord Jesus Christ, will live eternally with him. Suicide is a sin, yes, but not an unforgivable one that will condemn someone to damnation forever.
How can I support someone who is deeply depressed: (not in any particular order)
- Show your love for them, day in and day out
- Feed them and make sure they are drinking plenty of water
- Get them out into the sunshine, to get Vitamin D
- Make sure they are getting enough sleep, and yet not spending too much time in bed.
- Try and encourage them to get some exercise (it enables a healthy sleep).
- Take them to a medical professional
- Make sure they continue to take their medication, if they are prescribed it.
- Talk to them, often (even if it is a one-sided conversation).
- Encourage them to maintain relationships with family/friends/church, though this may be difficult and the last thing they want to do.
- Offer a way out. A change of job. Drop some university courses. Move house. Tell them that whatever is needed to be done to change the circumstances that are over-whelming them, you will support them 100%. The Lord has promised us to always offer us a way out of temptation to sin.
- If you are married, let the person know you are in this Together, Long Term, Whatever It Takes!
- Read Psalms to them (and/or encourage them to read them). There are many psalms that describe life in the pit and how the psalmist puts his trust in the Lord to deliver him.
- PRAY, PRAY and PRAY.
Your loved one may still decide to end their life. It is not your fault. They have made that decision, not you. They have decided there is no way out except death and acted on it. They do not see that somewhere, somehow there is a way out nor do they see the devastating effect their suicide will have on others. We do not always understand the whys and wherefores of such sad circumstances, but the Lord has promised to be with us, and comforts us with His Spirit and His Word. May God give you His peace.