Today’s question came to me via snail mail and the writer gave me permission to use it on this public forum. My “answer” and follow-up correspondence was actually quite involved. My comment below is a small excerpt.
“I am a Christian, and in prison for a 40-year sentence. I am thinking of committing suicide, for I see no hope of ever getting out. My mother is too old to visit me, and I don’t want to live like this any longer. Will God send me to hell for committing suicide? I don’t want to be lost.”
Wow. Questions like yours always give me a tremendous pause. I am deeply humbled that you would seek my counsel about your situation and state of mind. The last statement in your question is most significant. There is certainly “doubt” about your committing suicide being approved by God; and, as the apostle Paul wrote about eating meat: “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23; New American Standard Bible).
Actually, the Scripture show clearly that God is the giver of life, and it is wrong to take a life – even your own (Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:22). To take your own life, deliberately, is clearly sin. And it is difficult to see how you could repent of such an act in order to be forgiven. I am sure it is difficult for you know, but there are some principles and examples from Scripture that should help you.
First of all, God cares for you with a deep passion: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Some suppose that God only loves “the good people”. But look at what Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In spite of the fact that God hates our sin, He loves us. You don’t say what your crime was, but I am sure that God hates that act. But He still loves you, in spite of what you have done.
Second, God’s care and concern can help you through the difficult times you face. Joseph was sold by his own brothers into slavery in Egypt (Genesis chapter 37). As a slave, he was thrown into prison, and (seemingly) he was in a hopeless situation. But it wasn’t hopeless, because God cared, and God was in control.
Jonah (in spite of his rebellion against God) was still heard when he prayed to God (Jonah 2:1), and God delivered him. Elijah simply wanted to just die, because the king and others sought his life, and he thought no one cared for the things of God. But God was still in control, and delivered him while eliminating the wicked king (I King 19). Sure, these things took time for God to act. But He did act.
The Lord promises us: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it . . . I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (I Corinthians 10:13; Matthew 28:20).
I have no doubt that you will have many problems, temptations and difficulties. Believe in God and trust that He will see you through all of these. Remember: “the testing of your faith produces endurance… For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (James 1:3; Hebrews 10:36). Remain faithful. Be reassured that myself and others will continually pray for your spiritual strength. May God bless you.
For my online readers, here are a couple of website resources to help when someone you know may be considering suicide. Each link opens a new window.
Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts (MayoClinic.com)
Suicide Prevention (HelpGuide.org)