Noah J. Greer Pastor Matt Round

Noah Greer & Pastor Matt Round

February 24th, 2023

Episode 19

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Can a Christian who committed suicide still go to heaven?

The Impact of Suicide

This is a sensitive subject, touching and impacting many people. I think in a way that's unique from other deaths. Death always brings grief. And, of course, that looks different for every family. Suicide has a unique way of bringing hurt because I think so often it's not just sadness that's left behind.

Often there's guilt that gets brought on the part of family or friends because they think they either should have seen something that they didn't or should have or could have done more to prevent it. It’s a unique kind of guilt. Many times, there's anger that's left over. How could the person do this to themselves?

There's confusion and questions, which often revolve around where that person will spend eternity. Can someone who claimed to love God but who made this decision still go to heaven? And, of course, varying faith traditions have responded differently, some very harshly and not helpfully. That often creates more questions than it does answers.

I hope this will be clear and helpful and that it will be biblical because I think for some people, the question, in and of itself, brings trouble. Can a Christian commit suicide? Can anyone who truly belongs to Christ come to a place where they're in such despair, such desperation that they take their own life? And some people, without any harsh intention, would say or at least imply that the answer is no, that genuine faith would never let it get that far. And I think that's unhelpful.

Despair and the Believer

The Ever-Lingering Flesh

To be a believer means having a transformed heart and a renewed mind. It means that the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and we know that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin; He equips us to serve. He enlightens our minds and helps us understand God in His Word. But we also must realize that that same believer still lives and struggles in the flesh. We still live in a fallen world. We still have a very real enemy in Satan.

With the help of the word and the spirit and with the support and encouragement of other believers, we also understand that we have sinned, commit sin, and repent of that sin. We find restoration and forgiveness in Christ. But we still struggle. We still battle things like anger, fear, hopelessness, and despair, and every genuine believer acknowledges that.

Biblical Examples Anguish

That is something we can't lose: faithful people still struggle mightily with these very real things, and biblical examples exist. You have men like Elijah, the great prophet of God who saw fire descend from heaven, consuming the altar, who oversaw the destruction of the priests of Baal, and still in 1 Kings 19, he becomes so fearful and so filled with despair that he asks the Lord to take his life.

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked for himself to die, and said, “Enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.””
1 Kings 19:4; NASB

We read through the Psalms, and you can find multiple Psalms of David where he's in deep despair. In places like Psalm 13, he asks if God has forgotten him or is deliberately hiding his face from him. He's so sad that He says, God, I will die if you don’t intervene.

“How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long am I to feel anxious in my soul, With grief in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,”
Psalm 13:1-4; NASB

We also must understand that faith in Christ and salvation itself doesn't mean we will never struggle. It doesn't mean that the believer will never deal with things like fear, anxiety, or despair. 2 Corinthians 1:8 is a good example of that. So, when we approach this question, we must approach it with compassion, not just a snap judgment about a person's faith or lack of faith.

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction which occurred in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.”
2 Corinthians 1:8; NASB

Reasons to Rejoice

That said, the believer has every reason not to take their own life. What we know about the person and the work of God ought to have a tremendous impact on our thinking, even when we are filled with fear or suffering under the deepest despair. Well, what do we know? We know that God is the one who gives life. And more than that, we know that our lives aren't our own. We don't belong to ourselves. We belong to the God who created us. There are places that we could go in Scripture, places like Psalm 139 that remind us that God determines the number of our days, that He knows the number of hairs on our head, and that he knows the words that we speak before they come out of our lips.

If Psalm 139 reminds us that there's no place where we can go, where we are absent from God's presence, whether that's the heights of the heavens or the depths of the earth, there's nowhere we go that God is not there. But we know from places like Romans 8 that God uses every circumstance to accomplish eternally good things for those who love Him.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28; NASB

We know from James 1 and 1 Peter 1 that trials and testing, hurtful, painful things are used to test and demonstrate the validity of and strengthen our faith. And there are 100 different places that we could go in the Bible that continue to give those same truths. But the overall picture is that we belong to a God who is absolutely holy, perfectly good, infinitely powerful, and knows everything.

We know that the same majestic, powerful, and holy God has a purpose in every circumstance. And we know that God knows our situations and oversees, directs, and guides us in our circumstances. As believers, we understand that because the Bible tells us there's no such thing as random suffering. There's no random chance associated with our suffering. There's no pointless darkness, there is no hardship without reason behind it.

God Keeps His Promises

We know that God is faithful, and we know that God keeps every promise that He has made. And so, we look at those promises. We know that God has promised to provide for us. He's promised to meet our needs. We know God has promised to give us the strength and the resources to live obediently. We know God has promised to complete the good work He started in us. And those truths matter. It's why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:8, even when he said he despaired of life itself, the following verse in 2 Corinthians 1:9 says:

“Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead[…]”
2 Corinthians 1:9; NASB

Paul's weakness, fear, and hopeless situation drove him back to fixing his hope on God, to the point that if ministry or trial took his life, he found security in the knowledge of God who raises the dead. If you go back and read those same Psalms that David wrote, he cries out honestly to God in his despair. But he always comes back to this place of worship. It's not because the circumstances changed. It's not because things get better. It's because He remembers who God is. They would find hope in the unchanging nature and character of God. So, the reality is, when someone who is a believer takes their own life, it's a reflection of the fact that they have either forgotten or denied those promises.

What Suicide Is

Now, that doesn't negate the pain. That doesn't minimize suffering, darkness, or despair. It doesn't take any of those things lightly. Those are real. Those are incredibly painful. But those precious truths that we talked about, they're just as true in the darkness as they are in the light. So, while a believer can take their own life; it is possible to be a Christian and come to that place where you take your own life, at the same time with compassion and kindness, can say that it’s not a God-honoring action and that it’s a sinful thing to do. It ultimately says that my life can have no further purpose and that God either cannot or will not work good in this situation. It’s saying that God brings no good for me and good for others. And when we come to that dark and false conclusion, it seems like death is the only answer.

So, when we understand that truth, pain, and despair are real, we understand that even the believer struggles with those things and that God is not absent in our suffering: that he uses suffering… When we understand that suicide isn't a God-honoring or faithful response, it allows us to answer that question in much the same way as when discussing any other sin.

Unchanging Hope

Because suicide, while it's devastating and painful and sinful, is not an unpardonable sin. Scripture teaches us that the moment that we're saved, and when we repent and believe in the finished work of Christ: we're guaranteed eternal life. John 3:16, the most famous verse in all the Bible makes that clear:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”
John 3:16; NASB

Christians should not only know but be assured of their salvation. We don't have to go through life wondering whether we're really saved or not. In his book (1 John 5:13), John says that he wrote that letter so they might know they have eternal life.

In Romans 8:38-39, Paul goes through all these things that cannot separate us from the love of God. Heightened angels, principalities, things, present things to come powers. All of these things are insufficient, unable to separate us from the love of God. It's a picture of believers’ security, that even in their own smallness, weakness, and failure, even in the pressures and dangers we often face, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

While we don't minimize the pain, while we don't minimize the sin, even the tragic nature of suicide should remind us of the faithfulness of God. Now, there might be people reading this at one point or another who struggle deeply with pain, despair, anxiety, and maybe even suicidal thoughts, or maybe you know someone who has that. And if that's the case, I want to remind you of some things. I want you to remember that our enemy, the devil, is a liar and a murderer and has been from the beginning. He delights in convincing people that they're alone. He delights in convincing people that they're worthless and hopeless. He delights in seeing life destroyed. He's a liar. He's a doomed and defeated enemy.

The Word of God tells us the truth about those things. The Word of God tells us that we're never alone. If you're a believer and belong to Christ, he never has and will never leave you. And so, if that is you and you're struggling with that idea, I plead with you, go to church, move toward fellowship with at least one other brother or sister in Christ, and share your burden with them.

Because in His mercy, God has placed us within a body of believers designed to help us bear burdens. It's designed to strengthen us. It's designed to equip us. If you're struggling with these feelings of worthlessness, I plead with you to remember the truth of the Gospel; that God loved us and sent His son to die for us while we were sinners, even as ruined, rebellious, and hopeless, as we may be.

Christ took our sins, and he covered us with his righteousness. And now he calls us brother and sister; you have a place in the body of Christ. You have gifts that are meant and designed and given to bless and benefit others. You are precious to God, and I want you to remember that you have hope that your situation may not change, that David found the fall even in hopeless circumstances, and that is the same thing that can be true of us.

The diagnosis might still be terminal. That relationship might be forever altered or even severed. Whatever you are dealing with may still be incredibly difficult and painful. But God knows, and God sees. God cares more about us than our feeble minds can comprehend. God can and will use these things to accomplish something so marvelous and wonderful and of such eternal value that it will make all these things that Peter calls “momentary, light afflictions” seem like nothing.

And more than that, we must remember that we have this great high priest in Jesus Christ who's not only high and exalted but also who the author of Hebrews says is a sympathetic high priest. He suffered. He was rejected. He was abandoned. He was beaten. He was crucified in the most unjust act in human history, and He knows us deeply and personally.

And so, he says, cry out to him, cast your cares on him, for he cares for us in our loneliness and pain. In our despair, we cry out to a God who not only knows and loves us but is sympathetic to our suffering. And he promises to hold us, to comfort us, and to keep us.

Below are a couple of resources you can use to deal with suicide. I hope you'll find them helpful either as you struggle yourself or as you help and walk alongside someone struggling, and I hope you'll remember these biblical truths and that they impact the way you think about this. Like I said, find a believer to talk to about this, and hide those truths in your heart. You’re not alone; we are blessed to be one body in Christ.

National Hopeline Network:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: