This is a question I recently received from two people, one in person and one via this blog. So I’m sure that others have the same question. Since my wife, Tina, has been in human services for many years I have some insight into mental illness and depression.
When someone gets to the point of taking their own life, desperation has overtaken them. They feel like there is no other way out, death is better than life. If I’m being honest, I’ve been depressed and thought about suicide. It was a horrible time in my life. During that time, most people had no clue that I was pondering suicide, only those closest to me knew about it. If you have a friend or loved one who actually kills themselves, don’t blame yourself. Sometimes the hints are subtle and almost impossible to know. The other part of suicide is that it could be a chemical imbalance due to medication or genetics. Whatever the cause, mental illness, depression or a chemical imbalance it’s a devastating, life ending moment.
What does the Bible say about suicide and depression?
There are a few cases of suicide in the Bible. The first that I can recall is King Saul, the first king of Israel. He was injured in battle and took his own life to avoid torture. At the same time, his armor bearer took his own life as well. That story is found in 1 Samuel 31. As you read that story there isn’t any stigma attached to what Saul did. You could argue that Saul had some mental health issues but this doesn’t seem to be related to it.
An example of severe depression happens in 1 Kings 19. Elijah had this tremendous victory against heathen prophets. It was dramatic and one of the great moments of his spiritual life. The wicked queen, Jezebel, sent him a nasty note saying that she was going to have him killed. This event that should have been a moment when he was praised was stolen by negative words. Elijah turns that hurt inward and becomes depressed. This is what he says,
“And prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.”
Sleeping too much is a sign of depression and he does more of that after this quote. Elijah is basically just sleeping and eating. What did God do to help Elijah? He tells Elijah that he isn’t alone there are thousands of other believers. He gets him back to work and gives him a close friend, Elisha.
That feeling of “aloneness” drives someone into their own mind, it keeps them captive to negative thoughts. God was trying to get Elijah to see the truth, there are more people out there just like you. Elijah was an emotional guy and he needed another voice in his life. So God gave Elijah a good buddy who would go with him, listen to him and balance out some of his emotions.
Back to the original question, Does someone who commits suicide go to heaven?
Killing someone is a sin, it’s not the right choice to kill someone including yourself. But lying or cheating on your taxes or talking about your neighbor is a sin too. None of those things including suicide is unforgivable. God will forgive all sins. So it is my belief that a Christian can commit suicide and still go to heaven.
Some people will tell you that the person who took their own life should have relied on Jesus more or prayed more or whatever. That can be said about all of us. You should ignore simple people who show their ignorance about complicated mental health issues. God can help with complicated issues but He doesn’t always choose to remove our struggles.
Going to heaven is about acknowledging my weakness and seeing that my only hope is through Jesus. I need to have faith in Him to help me. I’m not good enough even on my best day to go to heaven. But through His death on a Roman torture device (a cross) Jesus made a way for me. I sin, I fail, I say stupid things but God doesn’t look at my weakness, Jesus is standing in front of me, perfect. Romans 5 says it like this
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
The Message, which is a modern rendering of the Bible, says it like this
“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus.”
Faith or a lack of faith in Jesus is the deciding factor regarding going to heaven, not suicide.
Since this is such a sensitive topic let me be clear. If you feel like you want to commit suicide talk to a professional. They might suggest counseling or medication or a lifestyle change. Don’t live in the “aloneness” and depression, get help. By killing yourself you are wrecking other lives around you.