This post is a little disjointed because it is a draft that I did not complete as it seemed too raw and may have caused anxiety due to my own state of mind at the time. Now 7 years later I feel safe to publish this.
World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10 2011
Working in a Poison Centre we receive a small but consistent stream of calls about suicidal exposures to various substances. Also in the process of studying the toxicology of compounds and researching toxicity information for our work, a significant proportion of the published data comes from case reports of ingestions by people intending to harm themselves. This can make for rather grim reading – poisoning is not a nice way to die.
All of this raises the question of why anyone would intentionally subject themselves to such pain and suffering? The shrink-wrapped, pre-packaged one-size-fits-all answer is along the lines that life has become so painful for these people that even ending it in agony is preferable to continuing to live in meaninglessness and suffering.
I think the following is from John Piper:
Committing suicide is sin. For three reasons:
First, it is disobedience to the command of God, “You shall not murder” ( Exodus 20:13). And disobedience to God’s commands is sin.
Second, it is presumption upon God’s sovereign prerogatives to give and take life. God alone can create a human person, and therefore personhood belongs to God. We have no right to dispose of ourselves or others as we please. The Lord has sole rights over what he has made. Murder and suicide intrude on the sacred ground where God alone is the giver and taker.
Third, it is failure to trust in God for the help needed to survive and cope. And the Bible says that whatever is not from faith is sin ( Romans 14:23).
Therefore, we are on firm biblical ground when we say: it is sin take your own life. (Funeral Meditation for a Christian Who Committed Suicide)
Despite what Piper says about suicide being sin, I am quite convinced that God allows it – firstly, people commit suicide every day, some of them are Christians. Secondly, God can inform us of aspects of a choice we are facing while leaving it to us to make the final choice:
While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem.
(Acts 21:10-15 ESV)
I do not see this as some technical way of implying that God already knew which choice Paul would make, or that God caused Paul’s thinking patterns to lead him to make the choice he did. The text is clear in showing that Paul would be taken prisoner and bound if he went up to Jerusalem. It is also very clear that this information came from God (the Holy Spirit). And it states that Paul made the choice to go up to Jerusalem – God had provided an honourable way out, Paul decided to go anyway. His companions then had to resign themselves to trusting God regardless of Paul’s seemingly rash choice.
If I choose to kill myself I should not be foolish enough to assume that God will prevent it happening if it is ‘not His will’. As a Christian this places such a choice firmly into the category of wilful sin, a sin committed in the full knowledge that it will invoke God’s anger. Probably not a good situation to be in at the end of one’s life.
On the insipid word ‘depression’:
“Melancholia” would still appear to be a far more apt and evocative word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a bland tonality and lacking any magisterial presence, used indifferently to describe an economic decline or a rut in the ground, a true wimp of a word for such a major illness…. Nonetheless, for over seventy-five years the word has slithered innocuously through the language like a slug, leaving little trace of its intrinsic malevolence and preventing, bu its very insipidity, a general awareness of the horrible intensity of the disease when out of control. (Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, p37).
Frankly I found William Styron’s book deeply distressing because it awoke many lurking thoughts of self-destruction, even before starting to read it I was apprehensive that I may be too unstable to properly cope with such a skilled description of despair – unfortunately I was right. Here is his description of the nadir of his illness:
I had now reached that phase of the disorder where all sense of hope had vanished, along with the idea of a futurity; my brain, in thrall of its outlaw hormones, had become less an organ of thought than an instrument registering, minute by minute, varying degrees of its own suffering. (Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, p58).
Some helpful advice from Ed Welch in an article titled Hope for the Depressed (I actually think the article is a bit simplistic overall, but this bit was good):
DEALING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS
Before you were depressed, you could not imagine dreaming of suicide. But when depression descends, you notice a passing thought about death, then another, and another until death acts like a stalker.
Remember, depression doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says you are all alone, no one loves you, God doesn’t care, you will never feel any different, and you cannot go on another day. Even your spouse and children don’t seem like a reason to stay alive when depression is at its worst. Your mind tells you, “Everyone will be better off without me.” But this is a lie—they will not be better off without you.
Because you aren’t working with all the facts, keep it simple. Death is not your call to make. God is the giver and taker of life. As long as he gives you life, he has purposes for you. One purpose that is always right in front of you is to love another person. Begin with that purpose and then get help from a friend or a pastor. Depression says you are alone and you should act that way. But that is not true. God is with you and he calls you to reach out to someone who will listen, care, and pray for you.
I found myself feedling disturbingly ambivalent as I read wanting not to die, a post by Tim Challies about the ‘universal’ drive to stay alive
It is literally life-saving to remember why I am alive: Don’t waste your life, it is a gift from God (John Piper)
Christ, not feelings
o you want to know supreme joy, do you want to experience a happiness that eludes description? There is only one thing to do, really seek Him, seek Him Himself, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
If you find that your feelings are depressed do not sit down and commiserate with yourself, do not try to work something up but go directly to Him and seek His face, as the little child who is miserable and unhappy because somebody else has taken or broken his toy, runs to its father or its mother. So if you and I find ourselves afflicted by this condition, there is only one thing to do, it is to go to Him.
If you seek the Lord Jesus Christ and find him there is no need to worry about your happiness and your joy. He is our joy and our happiness, even as He is our peace. He is life, He is everything. So avoid the incitements and the temptations of Satan to give feelings this great prominence at the centre. Put at the centre the only One who has a right to be there, the Lord of Glory, Who so loved you that He went to the Cross and bore the punishment and the shame of your sins and died for you. (Spiritual Depression)