Suicide Watch.

The age old question: Can you go to Heaven if you commit suicide?
Charcoal  - Annemie Odendaal
"The Life she longed for"

How will we know? It's not like we can pick up the phone and ask them. Although I cannot conceive that our merciful God will not have any circumstantial clause where we can be forgiven and still go to heaven, I understand that it is a great sin and one the Bible warns us against. 

I also know that a lot of people have been saved by the bell so to speak, like the murderer who hung on the cross next to Jesus. When he realised Jesus was innocent, and took accountability for his own sins with true repentance, God told him that they will be together in Paradise that same day. 

Why would you want to take your life? It is so unnatural, that even people who commit pre-meditated suicide, almost always end up with scratch marks on their necks, hands, or car handles, as evidence that they wanted to quit at the last minute, but weren't physically capable of doing so successfully.

King Saul's armour-bearer, 1 Samuel 31:5. His motivation for suicide was fear and impulse, he wanted to die with his boss. 40% of teenage suicides are impulse. When Saul's armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died.

Is it just a cry for help? A pathetic attempt for attention? A mental illness? Inability to cope with problems in the real world? 

Famous artists have written about their suicides in their work, but how did we miss it before it came true and suddenly it was so obvious to us?

Johannes Kerkorrel sang in his famous song in 2000 "Die Anderkant" about his depression and how tired he is of this world, just looking to escape. Two years later he committed suicide by stabbing and hanging himself.

"We are going to escape from this city
we will leave these merciless streets behind
This city is not for dreamers
and nothing it offers can fascinate us anymore
and all that I ask is to start over again on the other side,
Do you know what I mean when I say that we cannot ever turn back again?"

Afrikaans poet Ingrid Jonker writes in one of her poems "Ontvlugting" how she walks into the sea at Gordon’s Bay, never to return again, which is exactly how she killed herself. On 19 July 1965, she went to Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town, walked into the sea and committed suicide by drowning, exactly like described 10 years earlier in this prophetic poem. She was only 31 years old. Many who were close to her were not surprised, since she had a history of mental illnesses, that included depression and bipolar disorder, which at the time was not really treatable.

“My corpse lies washed up in grass and wrack
wherever memory should call us back.”

Suicide is not a new idea. The Bible even records a few suicides. There are many stories of individuals who either pleaded with God to end their lives, or who killed themselves, or who sought the assistance of another to kill them:

Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 contain two similar versions of the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt not kill." It has generally been interpreted as meaning that one should not murder a human being, except in cases of self-defence or warfare. Many liberals believe that there are circumstances where suicide is morally justifiable. When you talk to a volunteer at a suicide prevention line, you’ll learn that suicide is rarely justifiable; it is often a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is an extremely selfish deed as well. You family will never be the same afterwards. The pain and damage you leave behind, is just not worth it. 

"Do not be a fool - why die before your time?" Ecclesiastes 7:17

Clear cut suicides:

Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:3-5. His motivation for suicide was guilt. After betraying Jesus – his best friend and master, he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, departed, and went and hanged himself. Depressed, Judas felt trapped by materialism and guilt.

Ahithophel, 2Samuel 17:1,23. Ahithophel was bitter because his advice was not followed. They plotted to overthrow David. Ahithophel recommended that he be allowed to choose 12,000 men, to pursue King David immediately, and kill him. When his advice was not accepted, he became so depressed that he returned to his city, "put his household in order, hanged himself and died."

Zimri, 1 Kings 16:18. His motivation was rebellion, he had a problem with authority. Zimri, king of Tirzah, saw his city besieged and taken. He was distressed at the sins that he had committed, so he went into the palace of the king's house, and burnt it over him with fire, and died. 

Attempted suicide:

King Saul, 1Samuel 31:3-6 - Saul was stressed out, unable to live up to certain expectations, felt rejected and a failure. In a war against the Philistines, Saul's three sons were killed, and Saul himself was seriously wounded. He asked his armour bearer to kill him, but his assistant refused for he was too afraid. So Saul took a sword and fell on it. An unidentified Amalekike man described to David a very different account about Saul's death. In this version, Saul had the Amalekite, a stranger, kill him. After hearing the story of how the Amalekike had carried out the wishes of Saul, David had him executed on the spot, because he had "slain the LORD's anointed." Saul's justification for committing suicide was that because of his injuries, if the Philistines arrived, he would have been abused and killed by uncircumcised men. From the above accounts it can be seen that Saul's intention was to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. A bystander gave him the final blow that killed him. I think God even tried to prevent him from dying, hoping he would finally come to his senses and repent, since he was so lost in the weeks before this incident. First he got wounded, but didn’t die, then his armor bearer refused to kill him, then he fell on his sword and STILL didn’t die! Even after all that, he still didn’t see the light, and finally was killed by a passerby. Talk about wasted chances.

Were these suicides?

Samson, Judges 16:26-31. Samson has been blinded and was captive, then Samson called unto the LORD and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, knowing he would die too. He bowed himself with all his might and the house fell upon the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life – which were considerable. Samson died for a cause he believed in and for revenge. By causing his own death, he had a chance to destroy many of the enemy. I don’t see this as an actual suicide. He was a captive in war-like circumstances. This might even be described as war-like heroism.  He had one more chance to destroy the enemies of God and the Israelites, and he made a strategic decision. He even asked God for help, and God answered him, by giving him his strength back for one last time.

Abimelech (Judges 9:54) - Dying of a skull fracture during a siege ordered his armour-bearer to slay him. The warrior-king of Israel, Abimelech, He felt that he was mortally wounded. The king's contempt for women was so great that he quickly asked his armour bearer to kill him with his sword, in order that people not say that he had been killed by a woman. To be attacked and fatally injured by someone whom he considered so inferior was more than he could handle. Abimelech lacked personal identity. His armour bearer thrust him through, and he died. He did not kill himself, although he asked to be killed.

A lot of people asked to be killed, but never went as far as to commit suicide, and God really worked wonders in their lives afterwards:

Jonah 4:1-11 God had threatened the destruction of the Nineveh, a city of 120,000 people. But the king and people of the city listened to Jonah, repented of their sins, and fasted. God changed his mind and did not destroy the city. Jonah was so angry at God's display of mercy that he asked God to kill him, "for it is better for me to die than to live!"

I King 18:40 and 19:4 In an act of vicious religious intolerance, Elijah ordered 400 priests of Baal executed. Ahab went to Jezebel, telling her that Elijah had executed all the prophets with the sword. She swore to kill Elijah within the next 24 hours. Elijah fled into the wilderness, and "prayed that he might die." He said, "It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!" 1 Kings 19:5-9 “All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."  He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water.  He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."  Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God, where he was able to face God and have communion with Him.  He was able through God’s help to do many other great deeds in the name of the Lord and was led to even train his successor Elisha.  Had he committed suicide, he would have missed all these golden opportunities.

Paul’s jailer, Acts 16:27-28 “The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself!  We are all here!" Paul’s jailer woke in terror.  In a miraculous way all prison doors had been opened.  Facing disgrace and certain death, he had decided to commit suicide. God had other plans.  He was stopped through Paul.  An opportunity was given to him that was unheard of: the gospel message was shared with him.  The result? Acts 16:33 “he and all his family were baptized.” Himself and his family were saved.  Had he committed suicide, he would have missed a golden opportunity.  Salvation was offered to him and his family.

Moses: Num 11:14-17 “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.  If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now." Moses was in despair because of the complaints of the Israelites whom he was leading. The burden of leadership was too heavy for him to bear. Moses was tired of taking care of Israel all by himself, and they were a hard people to please.  They complained constantly.  Finally his patience wore out, and he begged God for death.  He then had an encounter with God, who gave a solution to his problem:"Bring me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them.  They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.”  Again Moses would have missed the golden opportunity to lead his people to the promised land. Had he committed suicide, he would never have been talked so highly among his people.  Our God is a God of hope.  He can and will answer our pleas of despair.

If we take the 4 suicides and 1 attempted suicide, we get to the number 5. The fact that there are five suicides mentioned is very significant and makes me think that all is not necessarily lost for them: Five is the number of Grace and Mercy in the Bible, and as we know, nothing in the Bible is a coincidence. 

Our God does not want us to commit suicide, He is a God of hope. Jesus promised us in Matthew 28:20 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is with us, why not hand over our burdens to Him, instead of carrying them all by ourselves.  No wonder we are tired. Here is what Jesus promises us if we hand over our burdens to Him Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 
God has a great plan for your life. God has created us in His image. He created us for a purpose. God has a specific plan in mind for everyone. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

God's plan is for life, not death. The Bible teaches that both physical and spiritual death are the result of our sin and disobedience to God, but eternal life is a gift to those who receive it. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

Jesus taught that death and destruction are the work of satan. The feelings of despair that lead to suicide are caused by some of his lies. Jesus wants us to have life. He said: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full John 10:10.

Life belongs to God. It is never our place to take our own life or someone else's life. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body." 1 Cor 6:19-20. It is a slap in Jesus' face, that when He paid with His blood for you to be free, you choose to pay with your own blood.

It is very clear that murder and suicide are sins. In my own opinion, however, and speaking as someone who knows and has experienced God's enormous love and grace, I can only think that maybe there is a slight chance that some people who committed suicide could have asked for forgiveness in the moments before they died. Maybe they had no idea what they did. Maybe in their last moments they finally had a personal encounter with God and experienced what they missed their whole lives: God’s mercy and love, and they died with the deepest regret, realising that there was hope after all.

"Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men...but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation."Mark 3:28-29