[And should I not have concern]
In The Girl Who Wouldn’t Speak I touched on the humiliation I first felt during a very impressionable time in my life. For me, humiliation’s lasting effects left me feeling so poorly of myself, that it followed me through my teen years. (Not the humiliation itself, but the lies that I believed about myself.)
As I struggled through my teens, I felt hopeless enough to contemplate suicide as a way out. That contemplation was followed by a plan, a time and a place. Evidently I’m still here, so thankfully I wasn’t able to follow that plan through to completetion.
Contemplating suicide (or worse following through with it, is nothing to be scoffed at, mocked or shamed. It takes being in a pretty dark place to reach this desperation. Don’t buy the line that it’s a cowards way out. Never belittle someone’s spiral into despair; it’s misinformed, and lacking in compassion.
For me personally, I was very isolated. When you’re struggling with low self-esteem, and you have social anxiety, it becomes your prison. Now I recognize that I was also suffering from depression, and depression itself has a way of making you feel very alone and lonely.
When I experienced depression later in life–though I had Andrew at this time–I still experienced that loneliness. Andrew was confused by it, and to be fair, I didn’t know what was wrong with me either. Because we’ve had our fair share of struggles, I could easily come up with numerous reasons for why I was feeling the way I was feeling, so it took some time before I recognized that how I was feeling was way too intense.
Don’t Believe the Lie that Suicide is an Unforgivable Sin
If you’ve lost someone to suicide, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re loved one has gone to hell. There’s nothing Scriptural to back up the notion that a person who takes their own life has committed an unforgivable sin. In fact the only sin that can’t be forgiven is rejecting God Himself. Thankfully God is merciful, giving all of us time to accept His offer of grace.
“Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:28
I used to believe that this verse meant that if I had ever said anything against the Holy Spirit I was truly unforgivable, and I often wondered if in the years before I became a Christian I’d said anything to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. I also wondered if I was truly saved because of this verse.
However, this isn’t a mere speaking against the Holy Spirit. It’s a willful rejection of God’s power (the Holy Spirit) that worked through Jesus to bring us Salvation. It’s also an unwillingness to repent of our wrong doings and accept the gift of salvation. We all do this before we come to know Jesus, but once we accept Him and repent of our sin we break the curse of death and eternal sin.
The slate is then wiped clean and any sins we commit thereafter we need only confess and repent and the Lord is quick to forgive us.
How Can Suicide Be Forgiven?
If the only unforgivable sin is rejection of God, then even suicide can to be forgiven. If you believe (as some do) that this can’t be true because a person would have no time to repent, let me explain why I don’t agree with this outlook. First of all God is merciful, and He’s relentless. He never stops working, not even in our stubbornness and our continual rejection of Him.
Being that God Himself created time, He’s not bound by time. He’s the Alpha and the Omega: The beginning and the end. (Revelation 1:8)
The truth is, we don’t know what happens in those final minutes of life or even after that final breath is taken. (Yes, even after a person is pronounced dead.) In fact, scientific studies show that brain activity can continue for more than ten minutes after death. What happens in those minutes, only God knows. Based on my knowledge of His great mercy, however, I have an inkling that He’ll be in the details.
The Merciful Heart of God
God’s mercy can be seen in Jesus on the cross as He says to His accusers (Those who were the very reason that He was pinned to the cross.) “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
This doesn’t mean that everyone at the cross was forgiven that day—not without repentance. It does, however, mean that Jesus wanted forgiveness, even for those who were responsible for putting him to death—after all, this was the reason He willingly faced death on the cross. The words “Father, forgive them” shows us the merciful heart of God.
The Relentless Pursuit of God
Another wonderful example of God’s mercy (as well as His relentlessness) is in God’s response to Jonah as he becomes angry with God for not destroying Nineveh. Jonah had tried to run from what God was calling him to do, which was to deliver God’s message to the people of Nineveh.
Because Jonah knew that God was merciful, and that He would inevitably forgive them, he didn’t want the job. He skipped town. Forunately for Jonah and Ninevah it’s not that easy to get away from God. (Long story short, after being swallowed up by a big fish, Jonah repents, delivers the message to Ninevah, and God has a little discussion with Jonah.)
Jonah’s Anger and God’s Compassion
When Nineveh received the message, responded to it, and God had mercy on them, Jonah became angry. However, God is a patient teacher, so He gives Jonah a lesson.
To get His point across God provides a plant that grows up over Jonah that gives shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and at dawn He provides a worm which chews the plant so that it withers. (Jonah 4:6-9) In response to Jonah’s anger God issues this response:
“But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:10-11)
God Gives Us all A Fair Shake
Though God’s forgiveness is dependent on repentance, He’s also fair and just, He doesn’t dismiss lack of understanding or confusion lightly. (I know that He also doesn’t take suffering lightly.) He took our suffering upon Himself after all. (Isaiah 53:4) God may want people to turn from their ways and towards Him, but it doesn’t mean that He can’t or won’t reach out again in someone’s final minutes, perhaps even after the heart stops beating.
When the Heart Stops Beating
To be fair perhaps we don’t accurately declare the time of death. As unbelievable as this may sound researchers who had previously thought that brain activity ended before or after the heart stops beating, have now found that brain activity continues, and has even exhibited the same kind of brain waves that are seen during deep sleep. Two other studies have shown genes continue to function, in some cases even more energetically in the days after death occurs. (It makes one wonder what’s going on there, doesn’t it?).
If you know someone who exhibits signs of depression, try persuading them to seek the help they need. If you suspect that you may be suffering from depression yourself, know that you are not alone, there’s hope, and you can find help.