4 March 2010 (Chamashee/Teruah)
Grappling with the Consequences
I have been wrestling with the horror of suicide for the past few days following the shock discovery that a dear brother and friend had taken his life. Though I have worked with drug addicts and known two or three men who gave up the struggle by taking their own life, and heard of countless others who have done the same, it has never hit quite so close to home as on this occasion. I am still baffled and shocked because though this man some some personal issues, as we all do, I could never in my wildest imagination have dreamed that he was so desperate. Though we had lost contact for some years, I thought I knew him.
Suicide is a terrible choice because it is so final. There's no changing your mind after the deed has been done. It is terrible for the one making this horrific choice to end his mortal probation and it is terrible for all the loved ones who are left behind grappling with the 'why's' and the vaccuum and pain suddenly left in their lives. We can understand Judas Iscariot and Adolf Hilter taking their lives and perhaps not get too upset about it because these were wicked men, but when good people, driven by depression and desperation go and do the same, it never leaves a good feeling. And it never entirely goes away. You can imagine how my friend's family are feeling.
What is even more baffling is that this man was saved. He knew and loved Yahweh. I have had two close friends who were killed in traffic accidents who were not saved; and whilst I was horrified - both because I lost childhood companions and because I know they weren't saved - yet I was more deeply shocked by the death of this man who, though he had had some traumas in his life, had the hope of the world to come. Two marriage break-ups and the collapse of his business had left him devastated but he always appeared to be self-assured and in control. He always bounced back again after a while.
Nothing can prepare you for this, I have decided. Another friend of mine lost a son to suicide - he tried to cope by throwing himself into his work. Then he lost his wife. It was heart-breaking to see his suffering. Wherever you turn, people are grappling with death and tragedy. Sadly, suicide is on the rise everywhere. It is becoming an epidemic. And one worry of many Christians and Messianics - understandably so - is what happenes to those who take their lives? Is suicide self-murder? Do all those who take their own lives go to hell? Many believe so. As this subject greatly worries me, I thought we should take a close scriptural look at it.
To begin with, let us get one thing perfectly clear: whether taking your own life sends a soul to hell or not is of secondary importance to the weightier question: did a person get right with Yahweh before they died? That is the deciding issue of eternity - whether a person was saved or not when the light of life went out for them.
Everybody knows that the Bible strictly forbids murder. And most people know that murder is one of the 25 cardinal sins that can rob a soul - believer or unbeliever - of eternal life. Obviously killing yourself is not a 'good' thing but does the Bible classify it as murder of your self?
The 10 commandments are a summary of all the other mitzvot. The first four describe how we are to relate to Yahweh and the last six to our fellow man (Ex.20:1-17). The latter tell us to (a) honour our father and mother, (b) not to murder, (c) not to commit adultery, (d) not to steal, (d) not to bear false witness against our neighbour, and (3) not to covet anything belonging to our neighbour. In none but the commandment not to murder can we violate ourselves - I can't dishonour myself as a parent, I can't commit adultery against myself, I can't rob myself, I can't bear false witness against myself, and I can't covet something I already own. You can't apply these laws against yourself. If a brother came to me and said: "I have committed adultery with my own wife" I would wonder if he was joking with me or had a screw loose. I suppose I could bear false witness against myself by telling the world that I was a serial killer when I was not but that's not really what this law is about - I am not my own neighbour, which is the issue. So whilst I can kill myself (which is a horrendous thought with serious repercussions), I cannot legally murder myself. Every civil crime has a punishment - you can punish a murderer by locking him up or executing him. How can you 'punish' someone for killing himself?
In saying this I don't want anyone to go away with the idea that suicide is in some way 'OK'. It isn't. You only get one life and taking your life can traumatise loved ones for a very long time. Suicide is usually the result of depression and when you are in a deep depression it can often seem as though there is no solution. A person who kills himself has believed in Satan's lie that there is no hope. There is always hope. Satan's #1 objective is to kill people so that they go to hell. The primary issue is whether we are saved or not because salvation, biblically-speaking, has three dimensions: there is salvation past, salvation present, and salvation future. It is extremely dangerous to say: "Brother X accepted Christ as his Saviour 20 years ago so the fact that he committed suicide makes no difference - he's in heaven.". Many people believe the 'Once saved, always saved' (OSAS) lie and refuse to believe that believers can fall away into an unsaved condition. None of us knows 100% whether others are saved or not when they die.
Suicide is wrong in Yahweh's eyes. A person who kills himself can't be told: 'You are forgiven, don't do it again' because he can't not do it again. Suicide is final. There is nothing 'right' about suicide. Currently there is a huge moral debate about the right or wrong of assisted suicide for those with terminally ill diseases. This is another issue altogether. I am sure that you, like me, know of people who are in comas with no chance of recovery. We know of one lady with Alzheimers, who has no connection with reality, who is in a coma. She is in a great deal of pain. Her family are in the agony of a dilemma because this woman said that if she should lose all awareness that she did not want to be kept artificially alive. Honestly, were I in her situation, where I could not be useful to anyone, with no chance of ever being useful to anyone barring a one-in-a-trillion miracle, I would not want to be kept artificially alive. My father was of this mind and Yahweh took him according to his desire. Probably most, if not all, of us would not want to be kept alive as mere vegetables. Terminal illness is one thing but depression - the main cause of suicide - is something else. Without wishing to sound heartless or insensitive, depression or discouragement is usually the consequence of being out of right relationship with Yahweh.
I say that not to minimise depression or discouragement. My goodness, I have been depressed and discouraged more times than I care to admit. One thing is clear and it is this: Yahweh cannot use someone who is depressed or discouraged. The prophet Elijah went through a major depression (1 Kings 19) and during that time he was useless as a prophet - in fact, he was running away from Yahweh and had to be brought to his senses, rather like Jonah. I am not denying the reality of depression and discouragement nor the need that people have for help when they find themselves prisoners of it - I am just saying that you are not doing yourself or anyone else any good by succumbing to it. And tough though this may sound (and I am directing this counsel at myself as much as anyone else), depression and discouragement is something everyone can overcome in a constructive, godly way if they want to. And I mean 'everyone'. I am not here speaking of numbing or destructive coping mechanisms, most of which are harmful in the long run, which simply delay or postpone resolution and create additional problems.
It is important to realise that Satan does not care a fig what non-believers do with their lives. As far as he is concerned, they're not 'in the game'. But when people become Christians or Messianics, then they can expect opposition from him. If anyone who has shared Christ with you has neglected to tell you this, they have been a bad, or not harmful, discipler. I underline and embolden this truth all the time, not because I am a prophet of doom or a kill-joy, but because it is reality. I could not rest with a clear conscience if I did not warn all believers of this, and especially those contemplating becoming a believer. New Christians often report being depressed and discouraged because these are two of Satan's most powerful tools against them. Knowing how to fight against them - and I mean fight because they won't go away if you just passively yield to them - is one of the first and most important lessons that a new believer must learn. And to that end, a new believer (and even an old one who may on occasion need some gentle nudges) needs to be reminded of four essential truths:
It should be obvious by now, I hope, that suicide is wrong and that the most important question is whether a soul is right with God when he dies. But a warning: someone who wants to end mental, emotional or physical pain in their lives can't get 'hellfire insurance' by getting right with Yahweh just before killing themselves. That's cheating and it doesn't work because it is obvious that such a person's real reason for getting right with Yahweh is not to establish a relationship with Him, but rather a procedure to 'get the best deal'. Salvation is not just about making the 'right choice' but living that right choice. Yah'shua came to give life (Rom.8.11), not choices - we have always had the choices. Such a phoney 'acceptance' of God will not cut it in heaven - it won't count, like so many false death-bed 'conversions' and 'repentances'. Do not be under any illusions but rather soberly consider the following:
- 1. "Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the Assembly of Elohim - even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved" (1 Cor.10:32-33, NIV). The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) dwells in everyone who is saved and it is our responsibility to treat Her with respect, making suicide inappropriate;
- 2. "Then Elohim (God) said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So Elohim created man in His own image; in the image of Elohim He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen.1:26-27, NKJV). We are made in Yahweh-Elohim's image which is one of the reasons we are not allowed to murder: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of Elohim has Elohim made man. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it" (Gen.9:6-7, NIV). Obviously, in the light of this truth, suicide is a bad thing;
- 3. Throughout the Bible we are taught to depend on, believe and trust in Yahweh: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love Elohim, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom.8:27-28, NKJV). Suicide shows no faith in Yahweh. Notice that though the prophets, apostles, and Yah'shua Himself were persecuted, tortured, and put to death, they did not commit suicide for an 'easy way out'. They "fought the good fight" to the end (2 Tim.4:6-8); and
- 4. Consider the spiritual impact of the one committing suicide has on those who remain alive because it is common for people to wonder if someone who commits suicide went to heaven or hell. That is a pretty poor testimony for a 'Christian warrior'...which is one of the reasons I am writing this devotional today. Such a 'testimony' might convince someone considering the possibility of accepting Christ not to. Is that the impact you want to have...especially if it's members of your own family considering whether to adopt your faith or not?
You see, salvation is not just a choice or an 'event' it is also a process that must be lived. You can't choose to live and then kill yourself - that is not salvation. 'Getting right' with Yahweh means being adopted into His family. Think about it. How would you feel if you went and adopted a child and a few hours later that child killed himself, leaving a suicide note which read: 'Thanks for adopting me, I wanted to commit suicide and I am glad that I found someone who would pay for my funeral'. Would that make any sense? Of course not. You would conclude, rightly, that such a person was an opportunist - not someone interested in being a part of your family. The point is, people who honestly want to get right with God don't go and kill themselves because they are already safe in His hands. Those who have an ulterior motive to 'having a relationship' with Him do not have that advantage.
"Do not be deceived, Elohim (God) is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Ruach (Spirit) will of the Ruach reap everlasting life" (Gal.6:7-8, NKJV).
I realise that you, the reader, may be one of those contemplating suicide and may not appreciate 'hard talk' such as this. But I would rather you had the truth than some lie to appease you. There is a way out for you but it will require a bit of effort on your part, and quite a bit of trust. You can do it if you want to because Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) will step in and help you past your depression and discouragement and into a vibrant life with Him. It is Satan who wants you dead and Yahweh is not going to agree with him. If you want help and encouragement, there are lots of believers - including us - who are more than willing to listen and help you get through your depression. We know you can. However, the initiative must come from you - that choice we can't make for you. If you have lost everything, read the Book of Job - he got through it. We all suffer loss. We all suffer pain. But we can choose how we deal with these things and carry on with life productively and with purpose.
And if you, the reader, are not one of those contemplating suicide, you can know how to approach this subject constructively that is pleasing to Yahweh. Don't judge those who have taken their lives, however tempting - only Yahweh knows their eternal status. Help the grieving and minister to those who are thinking about making that fateful decision.
I am still in shock over my friend but I am entrusting him to Yahweh. Meanwhile I pray for his family and stand ready to help...
 Tuscon Community Church, If Someone Commits Suicide, Can They Still Go to Heaven?