The Pain of Suicide
It hurt deeply to hear the news this week that Jarrid Wilson, a pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship, died by suicide at the age of 30. Although I did not personally know Jarrid or his family, the news hit hard. Any loss of life is tragic and an occasion for godly sorrow. But the unique circumstances of this happening to a young vibrant pastor in Orange County intensifies the sadness of this moment.
It seems inadequate to give a pastoral response to the pain of suicide. Yet we are all processing and responding to this event in some way. Perhaps the following perspective will help comfort fellow believers in this journey.
- We can respond by recognizing the reality of sorrow.
We live in a broken world and until Christ returns there will be grief and sorrow. At the gravesite of Lazarus, "Jesus wept." (John 11:35) The Scriptures describe our Savior as "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." (Isaiah 53:3) It is a godly response to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). In the words of Pastor Greg Laurie, "At a time like this, there are just no words." Sometimes tears will have to suffice.
- We can respond by refusing to oversimplify the issues.
There are so many questions that remain unanswered. In any particular situation there are so many unknowns. We are unwise to speculate on anything we do not know as fact. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever. . . " Sometimes we are wise to say, "I don't know."
- We can respond with a biblical view of sin.
Suicide is a sin. It is a form of self-murder and that is a breaking of God's commandment (Exodus 20:13). However, suicide is not an unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:31-32). A true believer can commit the sin of suicide just as much as a true believer can commit any of the sins of "immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry" (Galatians 5:19-20).
Robert Jones writes, "The notion that suicide brings eternal condemnation apparently arose because the person who commits suicide cannot confess or repent. But this notion wrongly assumes that unconfessed or unrepented sin condemns a person. If we take seriously the severity of God’s Law and the depth of our remaining sin, then no believer ever dies without unconfessed or unrepentant sin."
- We respond with a biblical view of suffering.
It is over simplistic to isolate the sin of suicide from the suffering that the individual experienced in life. A biblical view of suffering does not excuse sin. However, it does bring an awareness of the intense temptations a person may have experienced to deal with suffering in an unbiblical way. Spurgeon said, "I wonder every day that there are not more suicides, considering the troubles of this life."
As believers, we live in a broken world that is filled with pain. Personal failures, failed dreams, unresolved guilt, and chronic physical pain are just some of the ways that people suffer in this life. We are all tempted and tried in different ways. A biblical view of suffering will not minimize sin but will produce a heart of compassion for those who suffer.
- We can respond with a commitment to biblical ministry.
Jesus died to save us from our sin (1 Timothy 1:15) and He will one day free us from this world of suffering. The Apostle Paul writes, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)
In the meantime, the world needs more Christians who are committed to biblical ministry, not less. Specifically, the world needs Christians who are so filled with the truth of God's Word that they are overflowing with hope and able to minister to the weak (Romans 15:13).
May God give the church those who are equipped to minister in this way. May we reach the weak and the struggling with the hope of the gospel.