Do people who commit suicide go to hell even if they are a believer?
Throughout my life as a believer, I’ve encountered people grappling with this question far too many times. Often, it is a question asked out of anguish and mourning for a beloved friend or family member, sometimes even accompanied by guilt for having not seen the signs.
From my perspective, suicide is a result of mental illness. Mental illness is just that, an illness, a disease. In our time, people are finally beginning to see that, so where in the past society would blame the sufferer for not trying harder, working harder, or being a stronger person, today people are realizing that it is an illness that cannot simply be ignored away. I speak from personal experience, as I suffer from a depression that, while it has its ebbs and flows, never fully goes away. It is something I must take into account and take measures to keep in check each day of my life.
Regardless of the underlying illness, Believers often feel or behave as if we have the power somehow to determine who is and is not saved. This is a dangerous road for us, as demonstrated by the Pharisees. This can easily become a trap of our flesh wherein, rather than feeding the sheep and ministering to the needy among us, we separate society into the haves and have-nots, or in this case the saved and unsaved, allowing us to dismiss those who we were sent to be a light to.
We must remember that the gift of salvation is not ours to give. It belongs solely to the Father to give to whom He chooses, according to His will, for His good purpose. It is not ours to determine who gets it, who deserves it, or who is living in such a way as to maintain it. To do so is to set ourselves up as givers of salvation to others based upon their own worthiness in our very limited vision. We do not sit upon that throne and therefore we have neither the power nor the view that it yields.
Our Father is a compassionate, grace filled father who loves his children deeper than we could ever possibly imagine. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. He sees our suffering. He feels the pain we feel at our weakness, and He understands our torment. We cannot know who is and is not saved. It could be that the quiet person who never speaks and keeps to themselves is closer with the Father than the one who serves victoriously in the church each time the doors are open. I have heard of chart topping Christian recording artists who did not believe, and I once had lunch with the editor-in-chief of one of the largest faith magazines in the country – who was an atheist. So that is not a question we can answer – and I would be leery of any human who claims to have definitive knowledge of the state of another’s salvation. After all, Paul tells us that we must work it out, for ourselves, with fear and trembling.
The usual argument against salvation for those who have committed suicide is that there was no opportunity to repent because their sin led to their death. But, truthfully, I’ve yet to know a believer who has passed on that did not have some degree of unrepentant sin in their lives. We can make the argument that perhaps they were not aware of the sin but the definition of sin does not change based on whether or not we are aware of it. We all die sinners. At the end of the day, regardless of how good of a life we lead and how closely we follow the Father, we are still wholly reliant upon His grace. Having said all of this, we are in no position to unilaterally grant or revoke salvation to or from anyone. This wondrous gift is just not ours to give and only the Father knows whose names are written in the book of life.
So let us ask a better question.
Father, will you help me to love people as you love them and see them as you see them? Help me to know when those close to me are suffering, help me to live in such a way that I shine your light to all those I come into contact with, that I am better able to show them the hope that is within me so that those who feel hopeless will be reminded of your presence in the world and invite you to be a greater presence in their lives. And when my brothers and sisters in Messiah are hurting and feeling alone, help me and others like me to come alongside them and strengthen them. And when someone is hurting so badly that they can’t let anyone know, or keeping their pain so close that others can’t see, I know that you look upon them with the loving and compassionate heart of a Father, who hurts when His children are hurting.
Thank you for all that you are, Father. In this ever darkening world, where there is so much pain, help me to be more like you so that through me they may see you and come to know the salvation and freedom that are only found in you.
May we love as He loves us,
From Aliisa: I wanted to throw my 2 cents in here too. In 2004, my first husband committed suicide; I was devastated. I never saw it coming. In those first few weeks of mourning, I was shocked by what people said to me.
Things such as:
He was now in hell and would burn for eternity.
He was selfish and couldn’t have loved us because he chose to leave us.
He chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
It was somehow my fault because I should have known.
The truth of the matter is that my husband silently suffered from mental illness. Even after all of these years, it still breaks my heart to think that his suffering was so great that he felt this was the only way to not hurt anymore.
I now understand that –
He was NOT selfish. He was hurting
It was NOT my fault. He suffered in silence.
It was NOT a temporary problem. He had suffered for a long time.
Our Father has enough compassion, grace, and mercy to know that my husband was sick, hurting, and not in his right mind.
So, if you know anyone going through this or if you have gone through it, just know that mental illness is real and many who suffer from it do so in silence and there was nothing you could have done.
The Father has you.
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