It has long been assumed that the biblical view of suicide is that it is both condemnable and unforgivable. For some, looking to christians for comfort during a period of suicidal thoughts, or in the wake of a loved one’s suicide served to add to their pain, rather than to help alleviate it. They received judgement, rather than compassion.
I am not going to speak here of my own personal ethic of suicide, because regardless of the viewpoint we may take, both those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and those who can no longer bear the weight of those thoughts.
Suicide is a tragedy. This seems to me to be evident in the narrative of Saul and his eventual suicide in the Bible. Commentator O’Mathuna writes:
“Rather than viewing Saul’s suicide as an isolated incident with no moral comment, this scene is the tragic conclusion to a literary masterpiece soaked in moral comment. Tragedy implies that what “is” is not what “ought” to be.” (1)
I do not believe that to be at that point of utter desolation can be what “ought to be”. It is, as O’Mathuna notes, a tragedy. It was a tragic conclusion to Saul’s story. It is tragic when a life ends by suicide.
Tragic for the lost potential of that life.
Tragic for the friends and family left behind, trying to pick up the pieces.
As Charlotte Bronte so beautifully put it;
“God surely did not create us, and cause us to live, with the sole end of wishing always to die.”
As a christian who believes in the supreme love of God, expressed through the life, death and resurrection of His Son – I must share the view of Bronte.
I believe with all my heart that the most valuable thing we can do for someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts (or in the aftermath of an attempt) is to walk alongside them.
To hold their hand if they need it.
To show them that in the depths of their darkness, you are willing to step into that darkness with them – and hold up a torch.
(1)O’Mathuna, D. “But the Bible doesn’t say they were wrong to commit suicide, does it?” Suicide: A Christian Response, Kregel: Michigan, 1998, p359.
For practical advice to help those struggling with suicidal thoughts see here.