Contrary to what the pop song “Suicide Is Painless” says, suicide certainly isn’t. It leaves family and friends reeling, wondering if they could have done anything to prevent their loved one’s act of desperation.
This matter has been on my mind from time to time but especially in the past couple of months as I have been touched by two, maybe three, suicides of people I know or family members of acquaintances.
Some Christians say that suicide is the unpardonable sin. How helpful is that to someone whose family member died by his or her own hand? (More like, what a stupid, uncompassionate remark to make in the face of tragedy! I would like to take someone who makes such thoughtless comments aside and shake some sense into them, not violently of course, but like, “Hello, what world are you living in? And just how Christlike, if you call yourself a Christian, is what you just said?”)
I remember hearing earlier this year that evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s son committed suicide and thought, “What a tragedy.” Anytime someone comes to the point of despairing enough to take his or her own life, it should give us pause for thought.
A little over two weeks ago, one of my coworkers committed suicide. She was only 33, the mother of two young girls, and seemingly happily married. I did not know she had struggled with depression. Most of the time when I was around her, she was chipper and exhibited a good sense of humor. That just goes to show that you never know the struggles people are dealing with privately.
One day not long before her death, we were riding the elevator together. I noticed that she seemed down, and I asked, “How’s it going?” She said, “It’s been a rough day” and went on to tell me about some things that had happened at work. I left a card on her desk in the next few days, trying to encourage her and let her know that she was an intelligent and valued colleague…basically, not to let the “turkeys” get her down.
I don’t have any really deep thoughts on suicide, only some observations. When I read the whole of scripture, I find instances of suicide (Samson, Judas, and others) but I don’t find scripture that says suicide is an unforgivable sin. The only “unforgivable sin” I find mentioned in the Bible is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Somehow I find it hard to believe that any sin would be unforgivable…otherwise, what did Jesus die for? If you buy “atonement theory,” he took upon himself the sins of the world, and he willingly died for our sins.
Scripture aside, when I look at the life and ministry of Jesus and consider how he would have responded, I think he would have shown compassion. He probably would have wrapped his arms around the family of the deceased and reminded them that their loved one was a beloved child of God.
That should be enough to make us Christians consider carefully the words we say when we encounter someone touched by suicide. Perhaps we should learn to just keep our mouths shut and show our love by being present with persons who are hurting. You never know the road someone has traveled that has brought them to the point of suicide. Words are powerful tools, and sometimes it’s just best to keep our mouths shut in the face of tragedy. Sometimes there are no words.