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When a Pastor Commits Suicide

This explanation helps us, yet it doesn’t fully satisfy. It’s not as though he died of cancer or some other medical deficiency. He made the decision to kill himself.

SIN

We must account for Satan, circumstances and sickness. But we must also understand that my friend’s fatal choice was a sin for which he stands culpable. Suicide is self-murder; it’s a violation of the Sixth Commandment. It’s a selfish act that hurts many.

My dear brother-pastor left behind a broken-hearted widow and three confused kids. He abandoned his church. In that final moment of swirling darkness, he failed to trust God and took matters into his own hands. He had a lapse of faith and gave in to bitterness and hopelessness.

Suicide is never an excusable or righteous solution—no matter how great the temptation, how bad the situation or how serious the condition. My friend not only made a bad choice, he grievously sinned against God and others.

SALVATION

Does the sin of suicide mean this beloved pastor cannot be saved? No. Sin is inconsistent with being a born-again believer. And yet we all are full of inconsistencies, and of sin (i.e., 1 Jn. 2:1). Even great spiritual leaders fail miserably and perpetrate horrible evils. Consider King David who committed murder and adultery.

But David repented (Ps. 51)—and my friend likely didn’t. After all, when someone commits suicide, there’s rarely enough time.

This is where the Protestant understanding of justification by faith alone is so critical. We’re inseparably united to Christ by grace through our often faltering faith—not through our fluctuating works. Upon our conversion, Christ’s work irrevocably becomes ours: His death pays entirely for all of our past, present and future sins; his unique life of utter faithfulness is completely credited to us and clothes us. In other words, for Christians, God’s end-time verdict has already been irreversibly handed down and declared over us—RIGHTEOUS, he says, even though we remain sinners, even though we don’t ask for forgiveness after every specific sin.

SOVEREIGNTY

When someone commits suicide, a sole reason rarely explains it. It’s often the result of many complex factors in a fallen world. Biblically and theologically, these aforementioned categories should help us avoid simplistic answers, while also moving us toward some semblance of understanding.

And yet, at the end of the day, it still doesn’t make sense. Why does a defeated foe like Satan still wreak such havoc? Why, if Christ is building his church, were the circumstances of my friend’s life and ministry so difficult? Why couldn’t the doctors treat his sickness? Why didn’t God heal him? And how could someone who otherwise was so sane and selfless do something so stupid and sinful?

We have so many unanswered questions because we are not God, and the secret things belong only to him (Dt. 29:29). We cannot fully comprehend his inscrutable ways (Rom. 11:33). Every one of our days—including the last one—has been written in God’s book since before we were born (Ps. 139:16), which means that ultimately, somehow, this awful thing occurred in  accordance with God’s good plan.

I wrestle deeply with all this. I don’t understand so much. It doesn’t make sense to me. And so finally, I can only trust in God.

After all, if he isn’t orchestrating everything according to his mysterious yet wise and good plan, then our world is utterly meaningless and hopeless. But the horrific death of Christ in fulfillment of the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3)—followed by his victorious resurrection and promised return—gives me good reason to rest in his sovereignty even in the midst of this painful and perplexing situation.

This article originally appeared here.

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