The Tragedy of Suicide
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Copyright 1989 David L. Brown
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In 1896 D. L. Moody wrote, "There is that other kind of murder that is increasing at an appalling rate among us -- suicide. There have been infidels in all ages who have advocated it as a justifiable means of release from trial and difficulty; yet thinking men, as far back as Aristotle, have generally condemned it as cowardly and unjustifiable under any conditions. No man has the right to take his own life from such motives any more than he has the life of another." (From "Weighed and Wanting" by D. L. Moody; Published in 1896)
Mr. Moody, you should see what is happening today! It is beyond appalling. We live in a death-fascinated society. "How To" books are being written on means and methods of suicide. These books describe drugs you can use and how they will affect you. They give step by step instructions on the use of razor blades, guns, hanging, drowning and drugs for self-murder. There are an ever increasing number of songs being written and openly performed pounding home lyrics that advocate the "suicide solution." Millions of these records are sold legally. Case and point, Ozzie Ozborne's "Suicide Solution." Youth and adults are making "suicide pacts" and killing themselves. "Cluster" suicides are an alarming new phenomena (chain suicides, one after another, in the same vicinity over a relatively short period of time).
Millions of people, Christians and non-Christians, are attempting suicide and tragically thousands of people are successfully taking their lives. Likely 30, 000 or more people will successfully kill themselves this year. Even more alarming are the statistics that reveal the skyrocketing 400% increase in teenage suicides in the past decade. One study I came across said the average teenager thinks of death every eight minutes, often death by suicide. I PRAY HIS INFORMATION IS WRONG. According to Dr. Seymour Perlin, chairman of the board of the new Youth Suicide National Center in Washington D.C. This year we will see 2, 000,000 teenagers attempt suicide. That's 5, 479 per day! Suicide is the #2 killer of teenagers.
That's not all. 80% of all successful suicides are preceded by a threat or previous attempt. A common misconception is to believe that an individual who threatens or attempts suicide is "only trying to get attention" and is not really serious. 15% of all those who attempt suicide and fail the first time will try again within two years.
Dr. John Q. Baucom Ph.D. says in his book, FATAL CHOICE, "Three times more women attempt suicide than men. On the other hand, three times more men actually succeed. Men use more violent means to commit suicide...
"More professionals commit suicide than others. Farm workers have the lowest incidence among occupational groups. Dentist and physicians take their lives at the rate of 6 1/2 to 1 over the general population. Lawyers commit suicide at a ratio of 5 to 1 over the general population."
He goes on to say that April or May are the worst months for suicide. In addition, there are a large number of suicides during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays.
Protestants have a higher suicide rate than Catholics. Catholics have a higher rate than Jewish. American Indians have a suicide rate five times higher than the national average.
The "typical" attempted suicide victim of the 80's would be a white teenage female, who attempts to take her life by swallowing barbiturates and claims depression as the reason.
The "typical" fatal suicide would be a white teenage Protestant male, who lived in an urban environment and had repeated family difficulties or separation from family. He probably committed suicide with shooting, hanging or carbon monoxide poisoning. He was depressed, lonely, hopeless, estranged from close family ties and perhaps in ill health.
You may be saying, these things are not happening around here! YOU ARE WRONG! Though hushed, with data like this, you can be sure families you know have gone through the agony of dealing with an attempted or a fatal suicide.
Churches, pastors and believers must not stick their heads in the sand and pretend there is not a problem. We need to take a careful look at some of the -- QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT SUICIDE.
1. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH ABOUT SUICIDE?
Noted Bible scholar Charles Ryrie has an excellent chapter on suicide in his book "You Mean The Bible Teaches That...He says "The sanctity of human life is paramount in the sixth commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill' (Ex. 20:13). Here murder is condemned, and elsewhere in the law every act that endangers human life is condemned, whether the act arises from carelessness (Deut. 22:8), wantonness (Lev. 19:14), hatred, anger, or revenge (Lev. 19:17-18). Human life is sacred, for man was made in the image of God (Gen. 9:6, where also this same sanctity is made the basis for capital punishment). But the commandment has no direct object. It does not say, 'Thou shalt not kill someone' or 'Thou shalt not kill thy fellow man.' It is simply, 'Thou shall not kill." He goes on to quote from Carl Keil and Franz Delitzsch "Thus it is to be concluded that 'the prohibition includes not only the killing of a fellow-man, but the destruction of one's own life, or suicide.'" Simply stated, "Suicide negates God's estimate of life and violates the sixth commandment (Rom. 13:9)." SUICIDE IS WRONG. SUICIDE IS SIN!
"The Bible does not mention one single instance of a good man committing suicide" D. L. Moody said. I checked it out and he is right. Every biblical account of suicide reveals an individual whose lifestyle was not honoring to the Lord. All were living outside of the sphere of accepted behavioral standards of the Lord God.
1. I Samuel 31:3-5 -- King Saul and his armor bearer kill themselves by falling on their swords. Saul was forsaken by the Lord when he turned to witchcraft and forsook following God.
2. II Samuel 17:1-14 & 23 (key 23) -- Ahithophel devises a plan to kill King David. When his plan is rejected he hangs himself.
3. I Kings 16:18-20 -- Zimri, military commander of half the chariots in the army of Israel, plots to overthrow the king of Israel and declare himself king. He kills the king and all the male heirs in the family. When the people found out about what had taken place, they appoint Omri, military commander of the army as king. The army marches on Tirzah and defeats the soldiers loyal to Zimri. When he sees the city is taken he retreated into the royal palace and sets it on fire around him and dies in the flames.
4. Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 1:18 -- Judas, betrayer of the Lord goes out and hangs himself by thrusting himself on a pointed beam, causing his insides to gush out.
The scriptures seem clear enough. Those who walk in the paths of sin often find themselves at a dead end. In despair, they often contemplate and initiate suicide! How eerie are the words of Solomon who warns, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Prov. 14:12). When you go your own way and turn your back on God, you are on dangerous ground. A troubled, restless life and despair will likely follow. Isa. 57:20-21 says "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, sayeth my God to the wicked." You have heard the old saying, "Crime does not pay" I am sure. More accurately, living outside of the sphere of accepted behavioral standards of the Lord does not pay. A life of unrest and emptiness will be the wages reaped. But it does not have to be that way. Contrary to what you may believe, no one who still has life and breath is beyond the Lord's mercy and forgiveness. The Lord will always receive the individual who will repent and turn to Him. He WILL rescue the perishing. Ezekiel 33:11 says "As I liveth, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die...?" REMEMBER, AS LONG AS YOU HAVE LIFE AND BREATH, IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO TURN TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
The Bible paints a bleak picture of those who do not know Christ as Savior and who are walking outside the sphere accepted biblical behavior. Ephesians 2:12 says "At time ye were without Christ, being aliens...strangers..., having no hope, and without God in the world." Psalm 1 says that those who walk outside the counsel of the Lord are "like the chaff which the wind drives away." But, when you trust Christ as your Savior and walk in His way, there are abundant benefits that are yours. You will find purpose (I Cor.10:31; Phil. 3:13-14), direction Prov. 3:5-6; Psalm 16:11), and stability Isa. 26:3-4; Phil 4:7) in your life.
I am not saying "everything will turn up roses" in your life though. But I am saying the Lord will see you through your trials (I Corinthians 10:13) so don't throw in the towel. To be sure, there are biblical examples of believers who were severely tested and wished to die. Job (Job 3:20-21), Elijah (I Kings 19:4) and Jonah (Jonah 4:3) are all examples. But each knew that they were not to take matters into their own hands. Job's wife urged him to "curse God and die" (Job 2:9) but he would not. He cursed the day he was born (Job 3:1-3) but he knew the giving and taking of life belong to the Lord. Psalm 68:20 says "...unto God the Lord belongeth the issues from death." In the end we read of Job, "So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning..." (Job 42:12). The LORD works in mysterious ways. Entrust your life to Him. He will see you through. Don't take matters into your own hands and take your own life.
SUICIDE IS WRONG! IT BREAKS THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT!
The root of suicide is self-centeredness. Charles Ryrie says "Suicide is one of the greatest acts of selfishness, for in it the individual caters to his desires and own will and ignores the effects it has on others." Philippians 2:3 speaks to the issue of selfishness. It tells us we are not to be selfish but to put others before ourselves.
When an individual takes his own life he is saying, "I don't care about your purposes or plan for my life all I care about is me and 'escaping' from the present situation." That's rebellion. In addition, the person who commits suicide is not escaping at all. They are "jumping from the frying pan into the fire." I will tell you more about that later in the study. Where does the atheism come in? The individual who makes a decision to take his or her life puts himself in the place of God, making a choice that only God should make. Further he is asserting that God is impotent, because his problems are TOO BIG for God. That is a tragic mistake. God is bigger than your problems and able to do over and above what is needed to take care of the situation. Not only that, he wants you to come to Him for help! (Eph. 3:20; Matt. 11:28-30; I Cor. 10:13)
Satan is the destroyer, (Abaddon & Apollyon = Destroyer in Rev. 9:11). His purpose is to "...kill and to destroy" (John 10:10). Satan wants the unsaved person in Hell and the believer to be unable to witness and work for the Lord. Suicide accomplishes his goal. Satan wants you to believe there is no way out. He loves death. If your thoughts echo "take your own life, kill yourself, there is no way out..." you can be sure of their origin, SATAN! The grave is victory for the devil when someone takes their life. His deception worked. They bought the lie, that death was escape. But Satan knows that there is no chance in eternity to change your destiny. The doom of the unbeliever is sealed and the witness of the believer is silenced.
If the believer commits suicide it brings reproach on the name of Christ. Unbelievers scoff at Christ saying, "If he was so great, how come he couldn't help the one who committed suicide.
In addition an amputation to the body of Christ hurts the whole body (particularly the local church where the person was a member). I Cor. 12:12, 20, 26-27 points out this body relationship and Romans 14:7 makes us aware that our life and death influences others.
SUMMARY: You cannot deny the fact that committing suicide is wrong. 1) It breaks the sixth commandment, 2) It is the apex of selfishness, 3) It is rebellion against God & a form of atheism, 4) It is playing into Satan's hands, 5) It cripples the body of Christ. In addition, THERE IS NO CHANCE IN ETERNITY TO CHANGE YOUR DESTINY.
2. WHY DO PEOPLE TAKE THEIR OWN LIVES?
Common factors in attempted suicides are 1) A Sense of Hopelessness 2) A Sense of Helplessness 3) A Sense of Loneliness. Note I said a "sense." These feelings are real to the individual but many times he/she may not be without hope, help or alone. The big problem is, the individual has lost perspective and does not have a good handle on life or reality. They view life as empty, meaningless and wasteful. That's catastrophic! If the person would turn to Christ and choose to lived for the Lord the negative perspective would change. I have seen it happen! Your life can turn around and be full, meaningful, fruitful and satisfying in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Back to why people take their lives? We need to dig deeper and be more specific.
According to research by G. E. Murphy (Hospital Practice "Suicide and Attempted Suicide") At least half of all suicides are suffering from depression when they take their lives.
Don't let yourself sink too deep into depression before you talk to a friend, your pastor, a counselor or member of your family. If you wallow in depression, that will lead to self- pity and soon you will find yourself caught in a quagmire pulling you constantly downward until you are considering suicide. You lose your rational perspective on life. If you are intensely depressed and that does not eased in a week to ten days, get some help! At least talk to a friend who "has it together" and better yet, get some professional help from your pastor, a counselor or doctor.
Alcoholics and drug abusers account for another one quarter of all suicides. In fact another researcher claims that the suicide rate for alcoholics is 55 times the national average. One in five successful suicides is committed by a person who suffers from chronic alcoholism. Drug addicts are 350% more likely to commit suicide than are nonaddicted individuals of the same age.
I want to share with you a poem that I came across. It made my heart ache for those enslaved to drugs and alcohol. It was written in a phone booth, by a 20 year old girl just before she committed suicide. I heard it on a tape by Dave Mizel of Frewsburg, New York. I call it A HEROIN ADDICTS 23RD PSALM. It is obvious to me that the tormented young lady must have been "religious" for she had to know the 23rd Psalm to write her lament based on it. She wrote...
DON'T BUY THE LIE! Drugs and alcohol are poison. Statistics tell us 80% of all reported teenage suicides had alcohol in their systems.
If you have an alcohol or drug problem, get help to get control of it. Alcohol and drug abuse are deadly weapons in the devils hands. They are life destroyers. If you are a believer, you must remember that your body belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. You must not abuse it (I Cor. 6:19-20).
Friend, if you find you are caught in the snare of alcohol and drug abuse, don't let your fear, pride, rebellion or stubbornness keep you from getting help. Many Christians neglect getting help because they feel it will be an embarrassment to their families and church. It is far better to ask for help yourself as opposed to being "discovered." Call your pastor and ask for his help. If you are a young person tell your parents the situation and ask for help. If you can't bring yourself to ask for help, call a local hospital and ask where you can get help.
Not being able to talk to mom and dad is thought to be the number one promoter of teen suicide according to Jerry Johnston, popular teen speaker who deals with the issue of suicide prevention in school assemblies. This is not necessarily all the parents fault. Parents need to be open. When their teenagers talk, stop what you are doing and listen. Initiate communicate with their teens. Keep in touch with what is going on in their lives. Don't "jump on" every little thing you may not agree with. Save your "two cents worth" for what's really important.
Loneliness can be very depressing for young and old alike. To some it becomes so amplified that they try to escape in suicide. But, suicide is not the answer. Remember, there is no chance in eternity to change your destiny.
Parents who break up often do not realize that they are provoking their children to unbelievable anger. Despite the tension in unhappy marriages, for the most part that tension is more readily handled by the children than a divorce. There were a million new divorces last year. The children from these broken homes feel rejected, cheated and often responsible for mom and dad's break-up. The attempted suicide rate among these kids is sickening. More each year are looking for escape from the hurt by suicide.
When the bottom drops out of life, many hurting divorced look to suicide for release. There is a better answer and that is the Lord.
The loss of an important position, to be put on the shelf suddenly or to be a social outcast can be devastating. The feeling that "nobody cares" or "nobody needs me anymore" lead many to conclude "I might as well be dead" and take their own life. What a tragic mistake.
There is no more devastating blow to the honor and dignity of a young person than to be molested by a family member or close friend of the family. Too often children will go to another family member and try to get help only to be ignored, told they are lying or accused of being the instigator. Seeing no way out, many opt for suicide, seeing it as the only way of escape. If you find yourself in this predicament, DON'T choose suicide, tell your pastor, teacher, counselor, doctor or the police. They will be able to intervene in the situation and get you some help.
Sadly, many mistakenly believe that they are so deep into sin that God could never forgive them. That just is not true. There is no sin that puts you beyond the reach of God's grace if you will but repent and return to Him. Isaiah 55:7 says "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him...for he will abundantly pardon." I John 1:9 promises, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Many who are contemplating suicide feel that somehow failure makes them worthless. Life is not worth living. Not true. Failure can have its benefits. It can force you to look to Christ for help. It can teach you valuable lessons (make you patient, more sensitive to others who have failed, etc.). It can build your character. It can make you a better, more compassionate person.
Acts 16:25-31 is the account of a near suicide because of fear. An earthquake breaks open the prison doors and breaks the restraints holding the Paul, Silas and the other prisoners. The guard was asleep on duty but is awakened by the powerful quake. Believing that the prisoners have escaped and knowing that he will be held responsible for it, he is about to fall on his sword. Paul intervenes and shouts, "do thyself no harm: for we are all here." Ultimately the guard receives Christ as Savior as does his entire family. This is a powerful illustration of the importance of trying to intervene and stop would be suicides from succeeding. It also illustrates the importance of sharing Christ in those situations.
An increasing number of people are taking their own lives rather than endure suffering or because of the fear of suffering. God's grace is sufficient and can sustain a believer in any situation. He gives living Grace as well as dying grace. I think of Joni Erickson Tada, a quadriplegic. She has been greatly used by the Lord to advance his kingdom. Christian friend, never forget that Romans 8:28 is still true and I Corinthians 10:13 has not been declared invalid by the Lord. Friend, if you are not a believer, all the advantages available to God's children can be yours too. Just accept the "Gift of God, which is Eternal Life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." How to do that will be clearly explained later in this pamphlet.
3. WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT SOMEONE
MIGHT BE CONSIDERING SUICIDE?>