Through the years it has been extremely painful to watch various people I love die as a result of suicide. Because of this, I hope to shed some light on a few of the issues that can be present when a person decides to take his or her own life. I will give some strategies on suicide prevention, as well as some comfort for those whose loved ones have taken their own lives. This is not meant to be an exhaustive study on the topic by any means, but instead I hope to share some of my personal experiences and observations about suicide in hopes of encouraging people who may be struggling in some way with this topic.

Each situation where suicide is involved is unique and different, and people commit suicide for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few of the issues that may contribute to a feeling of such hopelessness that a person may be tempted to take his or her own life:

  1. Isolation
  2. Perfectionism
  3. Feelings of failure
  4. Feelings of rejection
  5. Experiencing some type of loss or setback—the death of a loved one, a financial reversal, divorce, etc.
  6. The inability to find purpose or direction in one’s life
  7. Chemotherapy
  8. Toxic chemical exposures
  9. Anti-depressants or other drugs that can adversely affect one’s brain chemistry and emotions.
  10. Discouragement and depression
  11. Mental illness
  12. Spiritual warfare (see Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
  13. Chemical imbalances in the brain

All other issues aside, I think one of the most significant factors contributing to suicide is spiritual warfare. The Bible is very clear that there are real forces of evil in this world that war against us. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I can guarantee you that thoughts of suicide do not come from God. They come from the evil one, and if a person is not aware of the source of suicidal thoughts, he or she may be tempted to give in to them.

My Experience with Spiritual Warfare – Following a chemical injury on an airplane in 1998, I went through a period where I was bedridden between eighteen and twenty hours per day. At the time, I was experiencing deep depression due to a variety of factors, one of which was that the chemicals that I had been exposed to on the airplane had altered my brain chemistry. I recall many days when I was too ill to attend church, and my husband and children would go to church without me. During such times, the enemy would whisper thoughts in my ear such as, “Okay, now is your chance to kill yourself.” Having knowledge of Scripture, I knew that these types of thoughts came from the pit of hell, so I was able to stand against them through the power of Jesus. Even though my depression was partially chemically induced, thankfully, I was able to battle the temptation to end my life because of my relationship with the Lord.

Toxic Chemical Exposure – Another factor that can contribute to suicidal thoughts is the emotional havoc that chemotherapy or toxic chemical exposures can induce, as alluded to earlier. I have heard from numerous cancer patients that radical personality changes can occur while undergoing chemotherapy. It is not unusual for someone to become angry, depressed, or even suicidal due to the effects of chemotherapy on one’s system. In certain cases, when a person has had a chemical exposure to products such as fresh paint, perfume, pesticides, or other chemicals, these emotions can occur.

Anti-Depressants – Concerning anti-depressants, I have talked with people who took anti-depressants that reported the drugs made them more depressed. This seems to be especially true when first starting a new drug or when a person is weaning off of one. One woman shared with me that after starting on an anti-depressant, she became suicidal. Without the intervention of a caring friend, she feels she may have taken her life. Once she got the anti-depressant out of her system, her suicidal thoughts went away.

According to Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “Antidepressants are overprescribed, and patients are not warned enough about the potential side effects. We now have all these warnings that antidepressants can make people suicidal.” Many of the anti-depressants now carry warning labels to this effect. (Note: Some people report improvement for their depression as a result of being on an anti-depressant. Taking an anti-depressant is a decision that must be made between a patient and his or her physician, based on the individual situation.)

My Experience with Anti-Depressants:

Back in the early ‘90s, I went on Prozac for three days. By the third day on the drug, I had a very frightening experience. As I was driving on the freeway to pick my daughter up from daycare, I started experiencing hallucinations, where the freeway in front of me appeared to be swirling around. I could have easily gotten into a serious accident as I couldn’t focus, and felt like I was on some type of bad drug trip. At that moment, I prayed to the Lord and told Him that if He got me off the freeway safely, I would stop taking the Prozac. Miraculously, the Lord helped me guide the car off of a nearby exit, and I called my husband who came and picked me up. That experience showed me how powerful and mind altering anti-depressants can be.

Strategies for Suicide Prevention:

  1. Develop a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He alone has the answers to all of life’s problems and challenges. 2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” No matter how deep the pit we are in emotionally, God will be available to help us through if we call on Him for help.
  1. Prayer is one of the greatest weapons we have in battling temptations that come into our lives. Scripture exhorts us to do the following: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”(Ephesians 6:11-12,18). Another verse that encourages us in regard to the power we have through prayer is James 5:16, which says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” I urge you to take advantage of this important weapon, both through personal prayer and seeking prayer support from others.
  1. Learn to control your thought life. We need to be careful to dismiss any thought that comes into our head that we know is not from God. My favorite scripture passage on this topic is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, which says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Wow! Isn’t that powerful? God has given us the ability to fight against Satan’s schemes through His mighty power. Often when thoughts come into my head that I know aren’t from God, I will say out loud, “Satan, leave me in the name and power of Jesus!”
  1. Spend time studying the Bible. It can give us wisdom on getting through tough times. Psalm 119:24 says, “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.” God’s Word can be a healing balm to our minds and can serve to give us hope. Psalm 119:114 says, “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”
  1. Develop a network of friends and acquaintances that you can call on for support if you are struggling with life. Being involved in a good Bible believing church is a great place to meet others. Joining a small home fellowship group or Bible study lends itself to getting to know people you can form relationships with. When a person is isolated, he or she is a prime target for the enemy to move in and try and discourage them. If you are a shut-in, consider joining online prayer and support groups, as well as having some friends you can contact by phone. Relationships are vital to our mental health.
  1. Seek the Lord to find the purpose and destiny He has for your life. He is our Creator, and He alone knows exactly what His plans are for our lives. His plans are always good, as seen in Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Finding a purpose greater than ourselves is a key to living a successful life. I heard someone once say, “To live is to give.” Discover ways your life can be a blessing to others.
  1. Don’t take life too seriously. Perfectionists often have exceedingly high expectations of themselves and may have a hard time handling failure. Know that God can use our failures and mistakes to make us more like Him. Be flexible as you go through life, even when things may not turn out like you planned. Offer your life to the Lord every day as a sacrifice and fragrant offering to Him. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
  1. If you decide to go on an anti-depressant, be accountable to a friend or family member who can monitor your emotional state to make sure the drug is not causing you to sink into a suicidal depression. This is especially important the first few weeks after starting a new drug or when weaning off of one.
  1. Search the Scriptures to discover how much God loves you. Often people who feel their lives are worthless don’t understand the magnitude of God’s love for them. Even if a person has experienced rejection from others, God is always there to be our friend. Ephesians 3:17-19 has this encouragement for us: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
  1. If you are feeling suicidal, reach out to someone for help. A few places to turn might be a pastor, a Christian counselor, a family member, a friend, or a prayer line. There are people out there who care about YOU! God made us to live in community with others, and He wants us to help each other through the storms of life. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, so never give up!

Coping Strategies When A Loved One Has Committed Suicide:
Losing a friend or loved one is always difficult, but a suicide compounds the loss. The following are a couple things to keep in mind:

  1. It is very common for those who knew a person that committed suicide to feel guilty. A person may question what he or she could’ve done to help prevent the suicide and may feel somewhat responsible for the death. This is a very nonproductive way to think, as no one is responsible for another person’s choice to take his/her own life. When a family member or friend has committed suicide, my motto is, “No guilt allowed!”
  1. People often question whether suicide might cause a person who is a Christian to lose his or her salvation. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that suicide is an unpardonable sin. I knew a former pastor who took his own life, yet I believe he is with the Lord today. This particular pastor had a fall in his later years that resulted in trauma to his head. Surgery followed, along with severe pain for the rest of his life. The medication he was on for the pain sometimes affected his brain so that he would act in ways that weren’t characteristic of his nature.I believe that it is likely that the effects of his medication and/or intense pain may have contributed to his decision to take his life. In cases like these, only God can be the judge of a person’s mental state and ability to make a rational decision. I suspect that perhaps God may be more gracious to people in these situations than we might, as He alone understands the complexity of the brain and how it functions.

When it comes to suicide, it is important to note that God looks at the whole picture of a person’s life, not just one event. I’d like to share an example of another godly man who tragically committed suicide back in 1985 that seems to illustrate this principle.

Paul Kaufman was a seminary professor whose wife had been ill for many years following a stroke. After faithfully caring for her for about 16 years, it became necessary to put her in a foster home. Evidently the emptiness created in his home after that was too much for him to bear, and Paul ended up taking his own life.In response to Paul Kaufman’s suicide, Earl Radmacher, president of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary said this, “God reminded me that He does not see as we see. We see one event at a time, often focusing on the last thing. God sees all things simultaneously. He doesn’t see anything more vividly than He sees other things; that is, He sees everything equally.”

Dr. Radmacher went on to say, “In the light of what God is like, we need to correct our seeing. We need to look at the whole of Paul Kaufman’s life and recognize, for example, the tremendous teaching ministry that God allowed him to have over many, many years. Surely, that will be among the ‘gold, silver and precious stones’ at the Judgment Seat of Christ. On the other hand, we must not minimize the seriousness of sin. Taking one’s own life is the sin of murder, and it was a tragedy for Paul to end his life in that way. Yet, Christ paid for that sin, along with all others, on the cross.”

One last thing Dr. Radmacher pointed out about this situation was that Paul had a lot of spiritual support prior to his death, but he took his life anyway. Paul’s Bible was found open nearby the place where he was found dead. It was known that Paul had many friends willing to pray for and support him. Dr. Radmacher concludes that evidence suggests perhaps there was a physical or chemical imbalance that was a contributing factor in Paul’s death.

In closing, I’d like to point out that when a suicide occurs, it often appears to be a very complex puzzle with no easy or clear answers. I think we can categorize it along with other tragedies in life that don’t make sense to our human minds. We may never know the answer to the question, “Why?” on this side of eternity, but we need to trust that the Lord is ultimately in control and can bring good out of the most difficult circumstances.

If you have had a friend or loved one that has died as a result of suicide, ask the Lord to bring you comfort. I remember after a dear friend of mine took his life, whenever grief would overwhelm me, I put on a praise video and just spent time basking in the presence of God, letting the Holy Spirit come alongside and comfort me. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” My prayer for you is that you would be able to receive the same comfort I have received in your time of great need.

About the Author:

Janine Ridings is the founder and director of Aroma of Christ, a nationwide ministry to people who suffer from chronic illness. She is the author of Comfort in the Storm: Devotions for the Chemically Sensitive.

Suggested Reading:

  1. Shattered Dreams  by Larry Crabb
  2. When God Doesn’t Make Sense by James Dobson
  3. Why? Trusting God When You Don’t Understand  by Anne Graham Lotz
  4. A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss  by Gerald L. Sittser
  5. When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakeable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances  by Carol Kent


The story about Paul Kaufman was taken from an article in a publication by Western Conservative Baptist Seminary called Western Communicator (Summer, 1985, Vol. 58 No. 4.) The article was written by Dr. Earl Radmacher, who had been the President of the seminary for 20 years at the time Paul died.

Categories Special Subjects | Tags: | Posted on January 30, 2012

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