There is a Facebook challenge going on right now regarding Veteran suicide. Its premise is to do 25 pushups each day for 25 days and post a video of it. I was nominated by my sister-in-law recently. I’m unable to do the pushups right now because of a recent foot injury (and my character won’t let me do knee-pushups).
To show my support I thought I’d write this short Bible study on Depression, Suicide and the Will of God.
In Psalm 18 David is recounting a time when he was severely depressed. Before he talks about his depression, he encourages and strengthens himself in the character of God.
Psalm 18:1…I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
He calls God our strength, rock, fortress and deliverer. Our buckler, the horn of our salvation and our high tower. What does that all mean? God is there. No matter how down we feel, no matter how alone, no matter how depressed, anxious, frustrated or fearful, God is there. He is right beside us. And even more so, since we live in the age of Grace, if we are saved, God is in us.
1 Corinthians 3:16…Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
Romans 8:11…But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
So when depression comes upon us, what do we do?
We call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised. He and only He can deliver us from our enemies. And frankly, our enemies tend to be inside, rather than outside of ourselves.
Psalm 18:4…The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
Now David recounts his misery. In verses 4 & 5 David is recounting all the battles in his life, this is the worship version of the song David sang in II Samuel 22, as an old man who just buried the stolen bones of his predecessor and his best friend, who has just been banned from battle by his men because he is too old and nearly died in a fight with Goliath’s son. He is looking back on the sorrows of his life and being very honest about the depression and anxiety he experienced over the years.
Depression and Suicide are topics the Bible discusses at great length.
Let’s clear up some misconceptions:
Depression is not necessarily a defect, disorder or dysfunction in a Christians’ spiritual or emotional life. A form of depression comes upon ALL of us at some time or another. In Christian circles we often fall into the trap of thinking that the saved are not ever supposed to be depressed. We take verses like “rejoice in the Lord always” and “be careful for nothing” and state that the Christian is always to be abounding in the Joy of the Lord, and by extension, is in sin when they are not.
But depression is not a sin… It is the effect of sin in the life of a believer. We are all sinners, and we each have differing issues and struggles. Some may seem greater or lesser, but all sin is the same according to James, and we ought to see all our struggles as the same, even though some struggles lead to depression or even suicide.
We cannot stigmatize those who suffer from depression and anxiety. To ask someone to try to not be depressed is like asking a shooting victim to try not to bleed. Many times depression is the result of a form of mental illness. But we cannot stigmatize mental illness, because we are ALL mentally ill in some form. Every one of us suffers the effects of our sinful natures upon our mind. We all make poor decisions, we all say things we don’t mean, do things we wish we didn’t, and hurt people we love. This doesn’t excuse this behavior, but we must be honest about ourselves. As Paul recounted in Romans 7 there is an Enemy inside us.
Romans 7:21-25…I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
The Enemy is our own sinful nature. A Shadow Self. Another personality who only wishes to block all our progress, harm our relationships, make us eat too much, drink to drunkenness, act in ways we know are not in our best interest. When this Shadow Self gets its way, our lives spiral out of control. Before this passage in Verse 20 Paul declares that now, in Christ, it is no longer his true self that sins, that self was redeemed by Christ.
Romans 7:20…Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
It is this shadow Self that lies to us, tells us life is not worth living, and even a Christian can fall susceptible to this deception.
Now let me say this: suicide is not the “Unforgivable Sin” There is only one unforgiveable sin, and that is unbelief. If Grace does not cover severe depression, what does it cover? The thought that suicide is unforgiveable betrays a works salvation ethic, where the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is insufficient to cleanse us from all sin, past, present and future.
Does a Christian who commits suicide still go to Heaven? YES, but they suffer loss. Lost opportunity to serve, lost ability to gain new crowns for Jesus.
1 John 1:7…But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
There are records of great men in the Bible committing suicide, wanting to commit suicide, and even asking God to kill them, which is asking for assisted suicide.
- Saul the King on the Battlefield in I Samuel 31:1-6 & II Samuel 1:1-10 threw himself upon a sword. A young Amalakite saw this and ran to inflict a wound then claim his victory over Saul- his report to David did not go as he planned.
- Samson the Judge in Judges 16:28 asked God to help him die as he took out a crowd of Philistines.
- Elijah the Prophet in I Kings 19:4 was so depressed after hearing of Jezebel’s desire to kill him he actually sought death from the Lord.
- In Jonah 1:12 the prophet asks to be thrown overboard.
And some not so great men…
- Ahithophel in II Samuel 17:13 hangs himself because Absalom did not take his advice.
- Zimri, the man who made himself king by killing the current king, sets his house on fire when he realizes the people will remove him from the throne by force after only seven days of his rule.
- Judas Iscariot hung himself on the day of the Crucifixion. He hung there until Sunday because the Sabbath prevented anyone from cutting him down.
- The Philippian Jailer in Acts 16:25-28, was ready to run himself through with his sword when he saw the jail opened. He was stopped by Paul.
- Even Demons attempt suicide. In Luke 8:26-34 they ask Jesus to cast them into pigs and they jump off the cliff rather than be exorcised by Jesus and sent to the dry barren place demons are condemned to.
Is it ok to commit suicide then? No.
Ecclesiastes 7:14-17… In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him. All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness. Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?
As Solomon states, there is an ebb and flow to life. There are joyful times, but there are also times of great sorrow and despair. His advice when you are in despair? Don’t be foolish. Don’t die before your time. Change will come. It may seem like it is taking forever, it may seem like God will never come through, but you must hold on. Remember, the bad times make the good times better.
Romans 8:28-39…And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Here is my problem in this: I suffer from bouts of depression, just like David, just like Elijah, just like Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in England at the end of the 19th Century. But Depression does not fit my Theology. I want to believe that trusting God is an insurance policy against depression, but it is not, because I still live in this world, and I still live in this body. I will live with the effects of sin until I die. This is why there are so many promises in the Bible, to encourage us and to remind us that as bad as it gets, God is greater.
Proverbs 17:22…A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Psalm34:17-19…The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
So how do we deal with Depression and Suicidal thoughts? First, remember that there is an ebb and flow of life. Life is a series of ups and downs No matter how down you get, if you just hold on, you WILL see the tide roll back in. Lean on the LORD. He is your only hope, run to Him.
But also learn to lean on your friends and family. After any suicide (and I have had family members and friends commit suicide) the ones left behind suffer great feelings of shame. “I could have done something…”
And maybe we could have, but maybe not. At least we can try. I call on us as individuals to lean on our friends and families, they want to be there for us. But I also call on all of us as a community to determine to be there for each other. Especially for our Veterans. In a day and age when those that protect our society are suffering from a culture shift that diminishes their value, it’s never been more important to support our Troops by being available whenever they may need us.
If you suffer from depression, “Never doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light” You are Not alone. So don’t let yourself be alone.
2 Corinthians 7:4-6…Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation. For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
In the nearly five years I have been ministering to Marines and Sailors I have seen the reality of suicide. About twice a month I hear of a Marine who has committed suicide at Camp Lejeune. One was the roommate of one of our regulars at the Center. I have had Marines who attend our Center speak openly about suicidal thoughts. The return I use at the side of my office desk was the dinner table of a Marine who committed suicide. His mother donated the table and several chairs to our center.
The answer to Depression and Suicide is right beside you today. The answer is your parents, spouse, siblings, friends. It’s your Pastor, Deacon or mentor. There is healing in the group. If you are depressed don’t let yourself believe the Lie that you are alone. Someone here on earth loves you dearly. Reach out. And if you know someone who is depressed, reach out as well. Let’s not fail each other.