Monday, September 19, 2011

Does God Let His Children Commit Suicide?

I am often amazed at the attitudes Christian have toward suicide. I have known rabid anti-abortionists somehow excuse suicide under the heading of 'Once saved always saved'. I have heard clergy rationalize that people who kill themselves go to heaven because God is merciful. Both of these sentiments confront the commandment. "Thou Shalt not Kill!" Why would infanticide and homicide be against God's Law but suicide is not. Our bodies no more belong to us than we can own another person's body. Another way of stating this is, "Who is the Lord of my body, Jesus or me?" (1 Cor. 6:15)

Now before you conclude I am a callous person, there was a day in my life when I actually thought I would be better off dead than alive. I imagined myself walking into the woods with water and poison to take my life. Before I could carry out that plan, my physician who had suspected I was depressed, confronted me about my symptoms and set me on the road to recovery. Not only did I begin to see a therapist, and take an anti-depressant, I sought help from a friend in my congregation who tried to kill herself as well a few years earlier. She failed at that but became one of the most faithful Christians I ever knew. When I disclosed my depression to my congregation, another parishioner came forward to tell me how she tried to take her life as a young adult. She wasn't very successful at that either. But she, too, became a person of great faith giving me comfort in my journey. All of this is to say, that each and everyone of us has an appointed time that we die. But that appointment is set by God. For the Elect, those whom God has called before time, (Eph. 2:1-10) suicide may be attempted but can never succeed as it is a violation of God's Law. Below are two stories of men who tried to kill themselves and failed. Their failure resulted in changed lives for the glory of God. If God is our Father, can He really sit idly by allowing the children He loves to destroy themselves? Please read the following stories and ask yourself, "Does God Let His Children Commit Suicide."

By Cal Samra
Editor, The Joyful Noiseletter
© Copyright 2010 The Joyful Noiseletter
The Joyful Noiseletter and the Fellowship of Merry Christians may have started, ironically, under a giant saguaro cactus in Carefree, Arizona, 27 years ago.
I was in the depths of depression and despair. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong in my life. My health had greatly deteriorated, forcing me to resign my job in Michigan as a newspaper reporter and, on my doctor’s advice, to go to the warmer climate of Arizona.
I was jobless, looked like skin and bones, weighing barely 103 pounds, and in great physical and emotional pain. I was full of bitterness, anger, self-hatred, fear, and doubt, and considered myself the most miserable of men.
An urge to be finished with the pain overwhelmed me one sunny, beautiful morning. I bought some sturdy clothesline rope at a hardware store and drove all over Phoenix looking for a suitable tree to hang myself from.
But the palm trees were much too tall to climb, so I finally drove into the desert near the elegant town of Carefree, sat in the sun next to a giant cactus, with its excruciatingly prickly spine, and for a couple of hours tried to figure out how to hang myself from it. How do you hang yourself from a cactus? Could I go down in history as the first person to hang himself from a tall cactus?
Finally, I decided that it was all very ridiculous, and that there was no way it could be done – not from a giant cactus, and I began laughing at my ineptness.
Then I got into my car and drove over to Scottsdale where I happened to pass by a Franciscan retreat center. Though my family roots had been in the Greek Orthodox faith, I was attracted to the beauty of the retreat center. I stopped by and entered the chapel, where I found myself down on my knees, praying for the strength to endure my pain and to go on in spite of it.
A warm-hearted Franciscan priest, Father Gavin Griffith, an Irish wit who could have made a living as a stand-up comedian, invited me to share a meal with him. At dinner, Fr. Griffith had me laughing again with his whimsical remarks and jokes.
I remember seeing on a kitchen wall a drawing of Jesus with a big smile on his face, the first such portrayal I had ever seen.
Another Franciscan gave me a gift of a print of a smiling Christ. The print of a smiling Christ gave me a different perspective on Jesus and cast him in a new light.
The effervescent and good-humored friars and sisters at the Franciscan retreat center, as well as Fr. Tom Walsh, a Scottsdale humorist and counselor who taught seminars on “stinkin’ thinkin’,” showed me how to reach out again to other people, and to laugh again. They helped reignite my faith and my sense of humor.
I discovered that when you are down-and-out and you pray for help, the Lord never fails to send people to you who will help you in one way or another, people who will cheer and lift you up, people who will encourage you, people with a variety of different healing gifts, people from a host of different faith traditions.

Cal's complete story can be found here The Joyful Newsletter

From the Desiring God Blog, we find the biography of William Cowper, poet and hymn writer a portion of which follows: 

In the week before his examination (October 1763) he (Cowper) bought laudanum to use as a poison. He pondered escaping to France to enter a monastery. He had illusions of seeing himself slandered in the newspaper anonymously. He was losing his hold on reality almost entirely.

The day before the Parliamentary examination he set out to drown himself and took a cab to Tower Wharf. But at Custom House Quay he found the water too low and "a porter seated upon some goods" as if "a message to prevent" him (see note 5).
When he got home that evening he tried to take the laudanum but found his fingers "closely contracted" and "entirely useless." The next morning he tried three times to hang himself with a garter. The third time he became unconscious, but the garter broke. The laundress found him in bed and called his uncle who canceled the examination immediately. And that was the end of Cowper's brush with public life—but not the end of his brush with death.
Conviction of sin took place, especially of that just committed; the meanness of it, as well as its atrocity, were exhibited to me in colours so inconceivably strong that I despised myself, with a contempt not to be imagined or expressed ... This sense of it secured me from the repetition of a crime which I could not now reflect on without abhorrence ... A sense of God's wrath, and a deep despair of escaping it, instantly succeeded (see note 6).
Now everything he read condemned him. Sleep would not come, and, when it did, it brought him terrifying dreams. When he awoke he "reeled and staggered like a drunken man."
So in December 1763, he was committed to St. Albans Insane Asylum where the 58 year old Dr. Nathaniel Cotton tended the patients. He was somewhat of a poet, but most of all, by God's wonderful design, an evangelical believer and lover of God and the gospel.
He loved Cowper and held out hope to him repeatedly in spite of his insistence that he was damned and beyond hope. Six months into his stay Cowper found a Bible lying (not by accident) on a bench in the garden.
Having found a Bible on the bench in the garden, I opened upon the 11th of St. John, where Lazarus is raised from the dead; and saw so much benevolence, mercy, goodness, and sympathy with miserable men, in our Saviour's conduct, that I almost shed tears upon the relation; little thinking that it was an exact type of the mercy which Jesus was on the point of extending towards myself. I sighed, and said, "Oh, that I had not rejected so good a Redeemer, that I had not forfeited all his favours." Thus was my heart softened, though not yet enlightened (see note 7).
Increasingly he felt he was not utterly doomed. There came another revelation and he turned again to the Bible and the first verse he saw was Romans 3:25: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God."
Immediately I received the strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fullness and completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel ... Whatever my friend Madan had said to me, long before, revived in all its clearness, with demonstration of the spirit and power. Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy. My eyes filled with tears, and my voice choked with transport; I could only look up to heaven in silent fear, overwhelmed with love and wonder (see note 8).
The entire story can be read here Insanity and Spiritual Songs 

William Cowper wrote poetry many of which became Christian hymns. He even collaborated with John Newton of "Amazing Grace" fame. He coined the phrase, "God moves in mysterious ways." Below is his hymn acknowledging God's providence and protection.