I recently learned of a prominent pastor who struggled with depression and finally took his life. He was not the first. While unusual, sadly, he will not the be last pastor to do so.
Can a pastor commit suicide? Can a Christian commit suicide? Yes, I believe they can. Suicide is not the unpardonable sin. While suicide is wrong, Christians are not perfect. They are not immune from depression, pain, loss, mental illness, and other struggles of life. I believe in Eternal Security (John 5:24, etc.); if a person has truly trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, even in the case of suicide, they will go to Heaven. And I believe they will be embarrassed when they arrive. God is faithful, even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13). We are kept by the power of God, not by our own strength (Jude 1:24).
We should be careful not to be too judgmental. You never fully understand what the other person is going through. But God knows, loves us, and understands (Psalm 103:14). I know of an outstanding Christian man who was dying of a very painful condition. He committed suicide. While I can understand, sympathize, and I still look up to him, I nevertheless believe his suicide was wrong.
If you are a pastor or Christian minister - Realize you are not immune to struggles others endure. In some ways you may be more susceptible because of the stress in your life and ministry. You must, however, not only tell people how to live, but show them how to live and handle adversity.
Does the Bible speak against suicide?
Yes, at least indirectly.
You shall not murder. -Exodus 20:13.
Suicide is the murder of yourself.
Man in made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. -1 Corinthians 6:19
Suicide is often a spur of the moment decision.
If you can get someone to not commit suicide, they may not try to do so later.
I heard a counselor say years ago, if someone says they are considering suicide, ask them how they are going to do it. If they have a definite plan, they are in serious danger. If they don’t have a plan, they may not be all that serious (but this is not always true!; just a rule of thumb).
Another special concern is if a person begins giving away their most prized possessions.
For someone considering suicide:
1. Stay close to your support system, or create one.
Relationship to Jesus
Read the Bible (there is good reason why so many old saints start their day by reading God‘s Word; Psalm 119:50), pray, listen to good Christian music.
Read good Christian literature.
Read Happiness is a Choice by Minirth & Meier (both M.D.s); and Melissa: A Father’s Lessons From a Daughter’s Suicide by Frank Page.
2. Realize your situation is temporary and will change.
Some have said, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Sometimes we must learn to weather the storm.
3. Seek help.
Seek help from a pastor, Christian friend, Christian psychologist, medical doctor, spouse, suicide hotline.
You do not, however, have to share your struggles with everyone.
Focus on the Family can direct you to a Christian psychologist near you. Many Baptist Associations, State Conventions, or churches can direct you to a good Christian Psychologist.
4. Realize depression is often normal.
Frequently after a big event, good or bad, we may go through a time of depression. On a slightly humorous note, pastors are usually depressed every Monday! Sometimes you need to remind yourself after what you’ve been through, that you would not be normal if you weren’t depressed for a time. Some of the most outstanding preachers have struggled with depression.
5. Clinical depression (very serious depression) needs the help of a professional.
Some mental or physical conditions need the help of a professional.
6. Do not isolate yourself.
Force yourself to go to church, get out around friends, get outside, go to the store, start a garden, volunteer…
7. Remove any temptations you may have toward suicide.
Guns, poison, pills, etc.
8. Think of all the people you will seriously hurt by your suicide.
9. Consider the bad example you would set if you gave in to suicide.
10. Realize you really have no right to take your own life.
11. Take care of the basics:
Plenty of sleep; R&R, rest and relaxation, whatever you find fun and relaxing; eat and drink right, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables; moderate exercise. Also, take care of the basic responsibilities of life.
12. Develop something in your life you can seriously look forward to.
13. Get involved in helping others.
Get your mind off yourself and on others.
14. In the midst of your struggles, remind yourself often of the good and beautiful things of life (Philippians 4:8).
15. Learn to laugh.
Don’t take yourself too seriously (Proverbs 17:22).
If a friend or family member commits suicide:
1. Realize it is over and there is nothing you can do.
That is one of the most frustrating things about suicide.
2. As much as possible, try to get over it, and make your life the best and most productive it can be.
They are gone, but there is still much you can do in this life for others and for the Lord.
3. Leave the unknowns in the hands of God.
Trust Him to do what is right.
This is certainly not intended to be an exhaustive or professional paper on suicide. But hopefully it can answer some questions and offer a little help. May God help us to end well.
-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, June 10, AD 2015.