Q: “If a Christian commits suicide, can they still go to heaven? I’ve read that a lot of the youth who convert to Christianity from Islam and other religions commit suicide to escape persecution and suffering in this world.”
A: The subject of suicide is tough to address. My life has been affected by suicide and it is an issue that is hard to deal with. It is easy when you have not been affected by it to make it a black and white issue, but the reality is it might not be black and white, and for those who have faced it, it leaves many unanswered questions.
Jeannette and I had a dear friend who overdosed on antidepressants and sleeping pills. She was a Christian and had managed to leave an incredible witness behind her. There was no note or declaration that she wanted to escape her present life, but many considered her action as being suicidal. A mutual friend who was struggling over her death declared that she did not commit suicide; rather, her husband had killed her. Jeannette and I had no idea if our friend was grasping at straws in order to make peace with something that was overwhelming and sorrowful, or not.
As we tried to make sense of our dear friend’s questionable death, we had to admit that we did not know her intent or state of mind at the time. She may have accidentally overdosed trying to silence her depressed state. If this was true, she did not set out to do herself in, and it was at this time we both conceded that we did not know the circumstances around her death nor did we know her heart. We took comfort that God, who is a just Judge, did know her heart and held her life in His hands.
However, another incident that personally touched my family left the harsh, bleak reality that can haunt those family members that come face to face with suicide. Back in the late 1980’s, we received word that my father’s adopted sister had not only taken her life, but her two children’s lives as well via carbon monoxide poisoning. Her children were two and five years old. We had shared Christ with her in her teenage years, and she even shared about His intervention in her life at different times. What changed and why she failed to seek help from family members are questions that haunted those left behind. There is no doubt that her soul was troubled, and I have my suspicion that life was a bit too much for her. In her mind she saw no other way out of her despair, nor did she feel she could entrust her children to those close to her. Her actions spoke of total desperation. But no matter how you might lend understanding and possibilities to such an incident as this, she, by all standards, killed her children and herself.
The only way I could deal with this tragedy was seek God for His consolation and leave the whole matter in His just hands. I found consolation in the fact that those sweet, innocent dear little souls were with Jesus, but I knew there was no way to put a spin on their mother’s actions to make sense out of it or justify them.
When it comes to the young people who think about or choosing suicide to avoid persecution, it is clear they are new in Christianity and not discipled. If they had any kind of Bible knowledge, they would know it is a blessed thing to be persecuted for the sake of Christ (Matthew 5:11-13). Granted, unless one is facing such persecution, it is easy to quote Scriptures, but I don’t declare the truth behind these declarations because of personal knowledge, but because of the great cloud of witnesses that have already gone before us (Hebrews 12:1). Read about the prophets of old who were persecuted and killed, the first apostles of the church who paid with their lives, the missionaries that have been martyred, their blood pour out on different hallowed grounds, and those who are presently being persecuted for their faith in Christ. They have chosen to stand in faith, withstand with truth, and continue to stand in light of future promises. They are not only my heroes, but my example that regardless of what you face God knows how to preserve His people by delivering them through it to the end. The Bible is also clear that as believers we may not get through this world without some type of persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
I do not kid myself that I am ready to be persecuted and martyred as some of my brothers and sisters have been and are being, but I know that God knows how to deliver me through such times and I will not need to worry about it because He will give me the means to face it when if it happens and not before.
This brings me back to Scripture. The Lord is clear: we must choose life with its blessings or death with its curses (Deuteronomy 30:19). Jesus made it clear that God is the God of the living, which is in reference to spiritual, eternal life (Matthew 22:30-32). We also live among what many would refer to as a culture of death. In such a culture people love death, speak of it because it holds some sick fascination for them, toy with it, elaborate on it in a romantic way, and prefer it as a way out of this world, but Proverbs 8:36 states this, “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”
It is clear if we love God, we will love and prefer life, but if we hate God, we will prefer death and love its ways. It is clear that new converts need to be properly instructed as to God’s desire for them in regard to choosing life in Him and walking in His ways. In this world, Christians need to learn what it means to live for Christ in this present age as a means to prepare them to live with Christ in His glory in the next world.