The issue of suicide is extremely complex. There was a lot of information on the topic that I wanted to include in Sunday’s sermon that I simply had to leave out for the sake of time.
I did briefly mention that it is not wrong to have thoughts of longing for death, but those thoughts can be a sign that there are serious underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Let’s think through this issue together. First, all believers to some extent should long for death because it means that we will be together in heaven with Christ. This is Paul’s point in Philippians when he says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain…I desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Phil. 1:21-24)
But more than that, there seem to be specific seasons when even great men and women of God longed for death as a way to end the pain and misery of life in a fallen world. Elijah says, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4); Moses says, “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 – if I have found favor in your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin.” (Numbers 11:15). Of Jonah it is said, “When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die and said, “it would be far better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:8). Even Jesus said, “my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, even to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38).
Other than the case of Jonah, God does not seem upset by these requests for death from his servants. In fact, their longing for death moves him to action based on his infinite compassion. So it is not wrong to long for death, even to request it of the Lord. But the key difference is that none of these men took matters into their own hands and attempted to take their own lives.
For those who serve the Lord today in the midst of a fallen and broken world, we can almost expect that there will be times of great anguish where we, too, wish for death. This, however, is different than a persistent voice from the Evil One in a person’s soul telling him to end his life or thoughts that the world would be better without him. Desiring to be with the Lord is different than on-going depressive thoughts and feelings that leave an individual feeling that death is her only way to end the pain. Any on-going encouragement to commit suicide is a sign that what an individual is experiencing is different than what Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Jesus experienced.
So, if you find yourself at times of great stress and anguish longing for death, please know that this is not wrong. But if there is a persistent, regular urge to end your life, you should follow the encouragement of the Psalmist who writes: “Why are you so downcast, o my soul? Why are you so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (42:11) and the encouragement of James who says, “Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) It is important that you talk to a trusted friend or church leader who can help you find your strength in the Lord.