God and Suicide

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Too often, the church shoots the wounded. Suicide is one subject that desperately needs wisdom. Too often I hear people say those who commit suicide will go to Hell.

It stems from the idea that if the last act of our life is murdering ourself, or being selfish, then we won’t have an opportunity to repent and thus be forgiven for that sin.  This would only make us as good as our last repentance. It also assumes that God’s forgiveness doesn’t cover all sins, only past sins. Not true (Jeremiah 31:33).

Other believe if we don’t have enough faith to trust God during our most difficult moments, then we probably don’t have the kind of faith for salvation. Really?

It’s all assumption! And it’s really jacked up!

This kind of belief is harmful and stems from fundamentalism. Fundies believe that every divorce is a sin, or that gay people cannot be Christians, or that we have to give 10% of our money to a local church. It’s all culturally contrived but masquerades as God’s voice.

Fundamentalism’s influence in Christianity only makes suicides that much worse. When this happens, the church is essentially oppressing the poor.

Some people are rich in money, in friends, in good health, in mental constitution, and in opportunity. Others are poor. They lack good health, they are plagued with negative dispositions, weakness of mind and faith, and so even the smallest advancements are infinitely more challenging. God knows their struggle. It was his design.

Biblically speaking, people are not saved nor judged as the church likes to teach. God’s standard is far more pure. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:09), and he looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God also knows precisely the circumstances, environment and issues that will be brought before each person. So while people like to judge each other based upon where they end up, God judges us according to where we started.  How many suicides are the result of a person who grew up under fundamentalism and could not find the love nor liberation to live as they truly are?

Fundamentalism makes salvation and suicide mutually exclusive. Islamic fundamentalism makes them coextensive. Is the solution to pray some grade school prayer and invite Jesus into our heart. Who is to say that God has not been perfectly glorified in the life of a person who takes their life? Saul fell on his own sword (1 Samuel 31:) and so did many others in scripture, are we to believe that God is somehow surprised by these deaths?

Of course I’m not advocating for suicide as a viable option for any person. I pray each of us successfully displaces our self destructive thoughts. Suicide is the ultimate blossom on the seed of self pity and confusion that resides within all of us. I am however warning against any kind of position paper or doctrine that doesn’t employ wisdom nor try to discern the unique situations of each person.

The truth is that God knows. God sees. God understands. His mercy transcends the rules of man. His grace is sufficient for those who are suffering (2 Corinthians 12:19) The gospel story is that of a son who laid down his own life because no one could take it (John 10:17-18). This sacrifice is in a cosmic sense a self slaughter. He gets our struggle (Hebrews 4:15). It’s purposeful. Our suffering is a crucible that purifies us (Proverbs 1:3).  Killing the self (pride) so that the true self (soul) can live is the essence of the Christian faith and all mature religions. It’s not hard to see why there is confusion.

We don’t all see life the same way? Some of us may not be able to see suffering as temporary. Some may not have the mental or emotional strength to go on? The inspiration that brings a survivor through dark days may be absent for some. Some have bodies so riddled with pain and disease that it’s easier to fear life than death? Shall we insist there is no context whatsoever where suicide is understandable?

The truth is we all contemplate death. We all think about our own mortality, yet look how many come through that. Look how many find life so amazing despite terrible circumstances. Look how many would never change those terrible circumstances for all the gold in the world. It’s worth it to fight one more day. It’s worth it to seek for one more hour. God’s grace really is sufficient. None of us are really alone. We all share a common human existence, with common suffering and disorientation. We are all called to live out today as best we can taking the good and bad with it. No more, no less.

It’s in this clouded, confused, insecure, and painful life that God has elected to write himself into the human drama. A God like this must be very special. In fact, the Christ story is where God self-emptied into humanity (Philippians 2:7) to dwell and live as one of us. Religion tries to have us ascend to God, but here, God comes to us.  A God this faithful, this caring,  certainly has capacity and grace for those who commit suicide, and brings complete healing for those who are left behind.

His self-slaughter means we don’t have to. It also frees the survivors from looking back and wondering if they could have changed it.

The Paradox of Humility and Leadership

It’s really easy to feel like we have a novel idea if we are disconnected from people who share similar ideas as we do.

For example, you have this great idea for a business and you finally decide you are going to take the first steps and pursue that endeavor. After you start your research you quickly discover that not only has someone else come up with that idea (or something similar) but you realize they are way better at it than you. It’s usually at this point where people start talking themselves out of their dreams or continue to search and wait for a “niche” or “untapped market.”

I know this experience is deflating. But it is so necessary !  It resets things accordingly and we get a very healthy dose of humility. This is an internal rub, one that if not managed correctly will result in us subtly trying to invalidate those that we see as competition. It’s insecurity. It’s petty. And if we allow it, it will be the death of our dream.

Robin Sharma always says that genius is nothing but practice over time until mastery is achieved.  He’s right. I used to believe I had no musical talent, until I began playing the guitar at age 42. A year later I realized I can learn this just like everyone else.

That is vital for us to remember. We need to celebrate those who are trying to do the same work as we are within our same space. They should be seen as colleagues and not competition. The latter presupposes scarcity, as if there is only so much to go around. If we don’t love our work enough to do it for free then we are not doing it for the right reasons.

This is where philosophy really matters. The tribal mentality of the world says that we have to outdo the competition if we would be great.  The biblical paradigm says we must serve them if we would be great (Mk 10-42-44).

One kingdom says to go up you have to claw your way to the top. The other says to go up you must first go down.

It’s paradoxical. But it is so true.

  • Give if you want to receive.
  • Serve if you want to lead.
  • Humble yourself and you will be lifted up.
  • Give your life away and you’ll preserve it.

If we gain these truths, there really is no limit to what we can attain. If we miss them, we have already peaked. In one sense, heaven or hell have already started depending on our disposition.  It’s the fundamental principle of the universe.

Going back to that moment when you realize your great idea only brought you to the back of another very long line.  Can I encourage you to stay put and introduce yourself to a few folks. You’ll likely meet some friends who can share this journey with you. You’ll likely discover as I have, that many of those people will walk away soon too leaving you with half the crowd and twice the opportunity.

All because your heart was in the right place to receive humility.  Leaders are first great learners (disciples). I think Jesus had this figured out.  Would that we were all so inclined.