“The righteous shall flourish…
like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12)


The righteous shall flourish…

like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12)

Lord of Death

God Has Spoken Concerning Suicide


I read an article several years back on the subject of suicide among teens.  The article reported a quadrupling of suicide incidences within a 20 year period, to the point where suicide is now the 2nd leading cause of death among the young, second only to accidental death.  The actual figure is presumed to be much higher due to the belief that many vehicle “accidents” are actually intentional.  This article sited many superficial causes, such as the unattainable life of glamour presented by Hollywood, substance abuse, immorality and teen pregnancy, absent parents with both working, etc.  Not a happy picture.

Suicidal people are people with no hope.  They see no help or relief from their trial or shame or emptiness or discomfort, with only hopelessness filling their vision.  Often their thinking has been tainted by the modern philosophical fallacy of the meaninglessness of life arising from evolutionary thinking.  If there is no personal God involved then there is no purpose or meaning to life.  There would be no realities beyond what I can see down here under the sun.  And if this stinks, then what else is there?  What’s the use in carrying on?  We could easily make the mistake of viewing the suicidal as poor, done-to victims of society.  But this would be an unwise conclusion.

Consider how the Bible gives many examples of folks who took their own lives;

  • Abimelech (Judges 9:54) – After killing all 70 of Gideon’s sons Abimelech ran amok in seeking to hold onto power. A woman finally threw a rock from a tower that Abimelech and his men were besieging and he was mortally wounded.  At Abimelech’s urgent request his armour-bearer quickly killed him, lest it be said that he was killed by a woman.
  • Samson (Judges 16:30) – He took his own life when he pulled the house down upon the Philistines. Though Samson was a man used of the Lord, yet he was quite a carnal specimen.  His unbridled fleshly interests were the means of his capture and death.
  • King Saul (I Sam. 31:4) – Because Saul never really sought the Lord’s pleasure it came at last to the point where the Lord was not available for Saul’s help. With the great Philistine victory over Israel Saul was wounded and took his own life to avoid capture.
  • Zimri (I Ki. 16:18) – This man assassinated Elah, king of Israel, and then killed every other rival son of Elah’s father. But his reign lasted only a week.  For the people appointed Omri as king instead.  And as they besieged Zimri at Tirzah he burned the king’s palace down upon himself.
  • Ahithophel (II Sam. 17:23) – For whatever reasons, this man followed Absalom in his treason rather than remaining true to David, God’s anointed. When his counsel was bested by Hushai’s he calmly went home and hanged himself.
  • Judas (Matt. 27:5) – He was a follower of Jesus only for what he could get out of it for himself. It seems he never received Jesus for who He really is.  When his conscience at last got the best of him for his betrayal he too hanged himself.

Invariably they were men.  And in every case they were self-willed men, who arrived at the pit of despair through defiance against God.

We could add to this as well men who wished to die;

  • Jonah (Jon. 4:3, 8) – In his petty, bitter selfishness Jonah was angered by the Lord’s determination to spare the Ninevites. Twice we read of his grumbling wish to die.
  • Elijah (I Ki. 19:4) – Though it was a time of victory and power over false religion in the land, yet Elijah’s courage broke with Jezebel’s threat. Instead of looking to the Lord he ran himself into despair, to the point of desiring death.
  • Job (3:20-22; 14:13) – Having lost his children, wealth, and comforts, he longed for death in his anguish.

Don’t miss the fact that though these men might have taken their own lives in their great distress, they didn’t.

Compare as well the Preacher of Ecclesiastes.  Having wealth greater than any man, he was able to pursue every pursuit he wished under the sun.  Yet he found all to be “vanity and vexation of spirit”.  Therefore he proclaimed that he “hated life” (Eccl. 2:17).  Yet neither did he choose to end his life.  For he came to the great “conclusion of the whole matter”, to “fear God” (12:13).  Joseph as well was sold out twice and left for lost in a foreign land.  And yet he never considered ending his life when he might have.  He chose instead to ever be a servant of God and man.  Many are those who might have taken their own life, but didn’t.  Why?  What was the difference?  They recognized in their humility the lordship of God over life and death!  As David said in Ps. 68:20, “unto GOD the Lord belong the issues of death”.  The vital point to understand is that God is the One with authority over human life.  It’s never about our imagined significance or feelings of insignificance, but about God’s significance!  Job said of man “his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass” (Job. 14:5).  When Job might have taken his life in his misery he recognized that God would bring him to death at His appointed time.  As well, in Job’s most painful experience we can see that God had purposes for his suffering; lessons for Satan and for us; purposes that were not then evident to Job.  Yet they were God’s purposes, and He is the One who assigns life’s boundaries.  It’s no different with us.  “Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8).

In Ps. 139 David wonders in the Lord’s detailed, tender attention and care in His formation of us.  For one to take his own life is to defiantly destroy God’s creation.  It is in a sense to despise our Maker.

Not all killing is murder.  There is the taking of life in the just wars of the Old Testament era, and there is accidental killing, and there is killing in capital punishment.  These are not murder.  To qualify as murder it must be intentional and it must be without just cause.  Suicide qualifies as murder, because it is intentional and without just cause.  And to this our God has clearly spoken, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13).

Thus to take one’s own life is in fact the ultimate expression of defiant self-will.  It is a refusal of God’s authority over life and over death.  We must be wise to understand that the suicidal soul is not a poor, done-to victim as much as an actively defiant rebel.  All of the Bible history of suicide affirms the same.  It is essentially an authority thing, that says “I am lord of my life, and I have freedom to take it”, reflecting the proud defiance of Satan (Isa. 14:12-14).  Regardless of the surface issues or circumstances bringing one to the decision to take his life, he has arrogantly assumed a responsibility that biblically is just not his!  Korah and sons tried to do the same, and fell under God’s judgment.  King’s Saul & Asa did the same when stepping into the priest’s role in offering sacrifices, and were judged by God.

It is important to understand the defiance involved in suicide.  And it is important to understand as well that the Lord has purposes and lessons for us in our suffering.  Lessons of patience and mercy and compassion, fitting us to help others who endure similar sufferings (II Cor. 1:3-4).  Lessons of dependence and obedience.  Even Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered.

Consider as well that the Lord has assured us that “there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13).  There really is nothing we are unable to endure with the Lord.

To summarise things considered so far;

  • Though the Bible records many who took their own lives, it also records many who might have but didn’t, because they were wise to fear God.
  • Suicide defiantly snatches the issues of death from God’s hand and takes them into our own.
  • Suicide denies God the developing of His purposes through our suffering.
  • Suicide despises our Maker in destroying what He has made.
  • Suicide makes us a murderer.
  • Suicide is the ultimate expression of self-will, in denying God’s authority and asserting our own.
  • Suicide rejects God’s assurance that He won’t allow us to suffer more than we can bear.

In the matter of counselling the depressed or suicidal we must understand that their primary need is HOPE.  And we must understand where hope comes from, and where it does not come from.

Hope does not come from flattery or minimizing problems.

“Oh you’re not so bad!”

“Your situation is not so bad!”

“My uncle faced 10 times the trouble you’re facing and he came through it smiling.”

They know how bad it is, at least how bad it is to them.  And they will think that you just don’t understand.


Hope does not come from self worth or self image pumping.

“Don’t you realize how significant and valuable a person you are!”

They have come to a point of rock-bottom honesty, with who they are and with what they’re seeing inside of themselves.  They will see through your empty sweet talk, and will see you for the useless, flattering liar you’re being with them.  Dishonesty is never the answer for long term help.  Don’t even try to pump up their deflated self-esteem balloon.  Pop it altogether!

Hope comes from agreeing with their honest assessment of their desperate condition, for it is indeed desperate.  Their heart, like mine, is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.  Don’t minimize the condition of either their situation or their sinfulness.

Hope comes from confronting their sinful defiance of God’s authority and misuse of their mind and members.  Their depressive, fretting, fuming, brooding thoughts are a sinful choice, a selfish abuse of the members God has given to them.  Their desperate condition is never really due to some outward circumstance, whatever they might be facing or pointing to as the cause.  Their hopeless condition has come upon them through their mishandling of circumstances, which in turn enlarged and expanded the concern, from one new depth to another, in a downward spiral to despair.  For example the lethargy depression invariably brings results in chores or duties neglected, adding weight to the load; wrong responses add guilt and other miseries to the crushing burden, etc., spiralling down to despair and further wicked actions.  As Wisdom suggests, “his own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins” (Prov. 5:22).  Until they at length arrive in the dark bondage of hopelessness!

Jay Adams in his The Christian Counselor’s Manual suggests the account of Cain as an example in Gen. 4;

  • His wrong offering was rejected by God (Gen. 4:5).
  • Cain chose to respond with anger and depression (his face fell).
  • God warned of the nasty consequences of the direction in which Cain had set himself (vs. 6-7).
  • “Do right and you’ll be accepted” (the fallen face lifted).
  • Failure to respond right would lead to greater evil (as if evil were crouching at the door waiting to devour).
  • God counselled hope only in turning from his wrong response/direction.
  • Cain again refused God’s counsel.
  • As God had warned, this led to the greater evil of murder (vs. 8)

Defiantly holding to his grudging anger and self-pity ultimately led Cain down to despair and death.

The answer for the one in the pit of despair is to understand and recognize their sinful pattern of handling things, and to repent and obey God and stop it!  And this vital understanding at the same time restores hope!  For it demonstrates that the pit of hopelessness and despair is not some unavoidable illness, some strange overwhelming condition that comes upon us, over which we have no powerIt is a product of our choice, for which we are responsibleAnd so therefore we also have the choice to turn, to change, to walk away from it in the power of the SpiritThings are never so far gone that we cannot be lifted out.  At every moment the direction of my spirit, whether spiralling upward or downward, is a factor of my response to God’s counsel in this moment! 

The answer is in humbly hearing and turning with God’s counsel, fearing Him and turning our eyes to Him in our anguish.  Compare the psalmist, with his soul cast down and disquieted within him, yet resolving in his despair I will yet praise Him for the help of His countenance . . . therefore will I remember Thee” (Ps. 42).  Compare “Christian’s” experience in John Bunyon’s classic tale, Pilgrim’s Progress.  When he and “Pliable” fell into the Slough of Despond, as they made their way to the wicket gate, their situation seemed a hopeless quagmire.  Pliable finally managed to get himself out of the bog and quickly ran home to the City of Destruction.  But Christian, struggling and discouraged there, resolved I will go to the King!”  And with that resolve the one named “Help” was immediately there, having been sent from the King to help Christian out and on his way.  The Lord’s help is available when we resolve in our anguish to look to Him and remain committed to His will.

Then we must lead that one who is struggling to the God of love and power; the One who so loved the world that He gave His only Son; that One who is the earnestly searching Shepherd and Father of Luke 15; the One who loves in spite of us (Eph. 2:1ff); the One who accepts us in the beloved; the One as mighty in power as He is matchless in pardon; the God who must be feared and obeyed (“thou shalt not kill”).  Never minimising their troubles, but maximising our God!

Always, always we must deal tenderly, though firmly.  Compare how tenderly and graciously yet firmly God dealt with Elijah and Jonah and even Cain.  Never in a sharp, belittling way, but with reasoning and thoughtful care.

“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil” (II Tim. 2:25-26).

With such an approach with those in the bondage of despair they are far more likely to recognize in you one who speaks the truth in love, one who is willing to do and say the hard thing for their best.  They will know you are right about them, and will thus be more likely to conclude that you’re right about God as well.  Speak faithfully, and lead them to our faithful God.