by Gary Curtis
Flights were grounded at Orlando’s International Airport last Saturday morning after a TSA officer jumped to his death. His successful suicide from a hotel balcony and into the atrium area at the airport prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to take actions which led to massive lines and delayed departures.
Here in Southern California, we have recently had two pastors take their own lives after struggling with mental illness for several years. In one case, some speculated the well-liked leader may have “gone off his meds.”
Suicide is the leading cause of death among fifteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds. In the last decade, there has been a 30 percent increase of suicides for those in their mid-forties to mid-sixties.
How should we think about those who take their own lives? How can we help prevent these permanent solutions to temporary problems?
Studies show that someone in America intentionally takes their own life every thirteen minutes. That is some thirty-eight thousand suicides every year! Eventually, each of us may seriously battle with life-threatening depression or know someone who has taken their own life. These families will need sensitive prayers and compassionate support from members of the family of God.
There were people in the Bible who took their own lives or wanted to die. They include Saul, Moses, Elijah, Jonah, Zimri, Ahithophel, Abimelech, and Judas. Since Sampson is honored in Hebrews 11 for his heroic actions, most would not consider his collapsing a building on himself as suicide, but rather martyrdom.
The Bible states that murderers will have their “portion in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” Rev. 21:8) and other scriptures suggest that suicide is a great sin, equivalent to murder, and therefore it is not God’s will. However, it is not the unpardonable sin, which John 3:16-21 states is unbelief and rejection of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Usually, family and friends can look back and see contributing factors to the self-inflicted death, which may have clouded or impaired godly judgment in the face of personal crises. The departed may have felt desperation from genuine mental illness, debilitating depression, or certain biological disorders. Perhaps these are the ones being described when Paul told the Thessalonians to “…comfort the faint-hearted, support the weak, and be patient toward everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14).
However, Hebrews 10:26-31 warns us about sinning willfully, which may call into question the genuineness of our repentance and subsequent forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38). One should never presume on God’s grace and risk gambling their eternal destiny with this irrevocable choice.
Author Larry Tomczak has a very helpful book; Bullseye, Becoming an Informed Influencer in Today’s Changing Culture. His final chapter on “Suicide and Death with Dignity” identifies several “Suicide-Related Situations”: Intentional Suicide, Mentally Impaired Suicide, Accidental Suicide, and Avoidance Suicide.
Tomczak offers this thought-provoking observation: “The further our civilization drifts from our Judeo-Christian foundations, the more countries embrace euthanasia coupled with abortion and infanticide.”
The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians believers that God allowed a “thorn in the flesh” to afflict him so he would not boast about his special visions and revelations. He prayed three times to be delivered from this spiritual pressure and affiliation, but the Lord Jesus told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12: 9).
Let us all learn to be God’s hands extended to those around us. We can learn to intentionally comfort the comfortless with our words and encourage the afflicted among us with our actions. May God help us!