There is something about it that is disturbing. To read or hear of someone dying is mournful, but there is something that is unsettling about one who takes his own life. Suicide is cause for sorrow to be sure, but it leaves in its wake a host of unanswered questions the biggest of which is, why?
This past week Isaac Hunter, the former pastor of Summit Church in Orlando, Florida, committed suicide. Summit had grown to become a megachurch in Orlando under his leadership. Isaac seemed to be following in the footsteps of his father Joel Hunter the Senior Pastor at Northland Church. Northland is a megachurch in Orlando also, and Joel Hunter is known as an adviser to President Obama.
Days before Isaac took his life a pastor in Illinois shot himself grieving over his deceased wife, and another pastor in Georgia shot himself. Earlier this year in April, Matthew Warren, son of popular pastor Rick Warren, committed suicide also.
In his book The Grand Weaver Ravi Zacharias makes a cogent point. He writes, “On campus after campus, in culture after culture, I have listened for hours to intellectuals, young and old, who testify to a deep-seated emptiness…No amount of philosophizing about a world without God brings hope…Academic degree after degree has not removed the haunting specter of the pointlessness of existence in a random universe.”
For those who believe in a universe without God and life without purpose the emptiness of what lies ahead generates a deadly despair. To ignore the existence of the Creator is to create an existence without hope. If all we hope for is what we experience in this life, if this life becomes unpleasant it would be a reasonable basis to end it. But that is the perspective of one who rejects faith in God.
What we have witnessed recently (although it is not a recent problem) is the perplexing paradox of believers who take their lives, and not just a believer but those who are hailed as leaders. Those who believe in a glorious future and a never ending life of bliss and joy should not be given to despair one would think. If anyone should be able to handle whatever trials and troubles life may bring it should be the Christian.
Even with all of our technological wizardry and advances in science we have barely scratched the surface in our understanding of how the mind works. Why do two different but equally intelligent people, given the identical information, react to the information differently? Obviously they think differently, but why? We really do not know the answer to these kinds of questions.
Yet, it is reasonable to believe the one who has faith in God should process and respond to information dramatically different than one who has no faith. So is there a common denominator that would apply to Christians who take their lives? While it would be impossible to know all the thoughts that influence a believer to take his life, it seems logical to assume there was a lack of faith that the situation would get better. Whatever the problems associated with each one’s set of circumstances, whatever degree of emotional pain was experienced, there must have been a complete and unrelenting expectation that things would not get better; there would be no relief.
Some have said suicide is self-murder, and since the one who commits suicide is rendered unable to confess and repent of his sin; he is damned. But this view fails to contemplate the grace of God not only in suicide, but in any situation in which one may die suddenly with unconfessed sin.
Paul told Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” 2 Timothy 2:13. If I understand Paul correctly a faithless act is not the final determinant of where we will spend eternity. Suicide may be faithless, which makes it a sin, but it is not necessarily damnable.
While suicide does not send one to hell, neither does it guarantee heaven. This is a judgment call, and like Abraham I trust the God who knows everything, and always does the right thing, will make the right call. “Far be it from You…that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike…Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” Genesis 18:25.