A Jesus Response to Suicide

The following article was written by Frank Viola Author. We are publishing it here in its entirely.

Comedian Robin Williams’ recent suicide has once again exposed the different ways that “Christian” people respond to the tragic issue of suicide.

Many people of faith who respected Williams for his talent are bemoaning his loss.

No Christian I’ve ever met believes that suicide is a good thing.

There is a wide consensus among people of faith — as well as people who don’t subscribe to any belief in God — that in many cases, suicide is a selfish act.

Indeed, in many cases, the individual committing suicide isn’t thinking about the unspeakable pain that will be brought upon her or his loved ones for their entire lives.

However, what if a person isn’t in their right mind when they pull the trigger (so to speak)? What if they are so sullen that they can’t see or even think straight? (With regard to Williams, it’s recently been revealed that he was experiencing hallucinations associated with his Parkinson’s disease.)

Surely, every person reading this article has made a hasty decision, a decision based on faulty or screwed thinking.

Surely every person reading this article has done something foolish in a moment of intense despair, intense confusion, intense temptation, intense pain. Only to deeply regret it later.

On that basis, one must extend grace to those who choose to end their lives in a profound moment of despair, temptation, confusion, or pain (Matthew 7:12).

No one knows whether or not Williams, upon his last breath or two, said, “God, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I don’t understand it all, but I receive your Son.”

Perhaps he didn’t. But such judgments are staked out by Divinity alone. Only God knows his heart.

Regrettably, some “Christians” are condemning Williams to hell because of the suicide. Last time I checked the Bible, people are judged by God for willfully rejecting Jesus Christ — the Savior of the world — not for a particular sin, mistake, or transgression.

If Williams did — or doesn’t — receive eternal life, it’s not because of any particular sin he committed. Nor is it because he chose to end his life. It will be because he willfully rejected the only One who gives eternal life . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Eternal Life Himself.

Phil Cooke points out that just days after the tragic death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, some “Christians” were coming up with the “answers,” and (surprise) pitching their DVD’s in the process. Some of them were stating, “Robin Williams acknowledged that he had opened himself up to transformative demonic powers that aided him on stage.”

Cooke writes,

“Having worked in Hollywood for more than 30 years, I can tell you the idea Robin’s talking about in the quote isn’t “demon possession” but a common term actors use to fill a character.  I’m sure writer Joe Schimmel is trying to do the right thing, but using that quote as a guide, he would have to (and perhaps does) assume every actor and comedian in Hollywood is demon possessed.

But even more important is the question – did this writer ever actually speak to Robin? Did he counsel him? Did he even have a lengthy personal interview? If not, how can he make such sweeping and insensitive statements – particularly within hours of Robin’s death?

We wonder why Christians are marginalized by the culture and wonder why non-believers aren’t interested in anything we have to say. Well go no further than this article (and I’m sure plenty from others that will be coming.)

There is evil in the world. There is demonic activity in the world.  But there is also mental illness.  Of all the people in the culture, Christians should be more sensitive than anyone during times of tragedy.

And I’ll no doubt get the “But Phil – we must speak the Truth” argument back. That’s true as well. But when that is required, it is a grave and serious responsibility – not an opportunity to pitch our latest DVD. And perhaps more important – when Christians make grand judgements and pronouncements, they should be based on rock solid evidence, not fragments of interviews or our own assumptions.  I’m reminded of the quote from writer Anne Lamott:  “You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.”

Think about the bigger picture here. Do articles like this really advance the Kingdom? Do they cause readers to be so convicted that they want to turn to God? Or do they simply feed the stereotype that Christians are insensitive jerks, who are more concerned about condemning than caring?

During times like this, our hearts should burn. WE should be consumed with guilt that we haven’t done enough to share the Good News.

Not take an attitude that will simply drive away the very people we are trying to reach.”

I’ve said this numerous time before. But why do so many people not want to have anything to do with Jesus?

It’s because of the cruel, harsh, self-righteous, and judgmental attitude that some professing “Christians” level against people they’ve never met . . . as well as fellow believers.

“Why would I want to be part of that bunch!?” . . . is the common response by so many non-Christians today.

The sentiment is growing among true Jesus followers as well.

Last year, Rick Warren’s youngest son committed suicide. Here’s a short explanation with quotes from Rick himself.

The 27-year-old son of Pastor Rick Warren has taken his own life after a lifelong struggle with mental illness. The internationally known Christian leader at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, made the announcement about his son early Saturday morning in an email sent to his staff.

“No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today,” wrote Warren.

“Over the past 33 years we’ve been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us,” began the staff email from him.

Warren described Matthew as “an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man,” as those who grew up with him would also say.

“He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them,” he continued. “But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”

Warren said that he and his wife often marveled at Matthew’s courage “to keep moving in spite of relentless pain.”

“I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said, ‘Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?’ but he kept going for another decade,” he wrote.

If you are a Christian and your heart doesn’t go out to Warren and his family, something is wrong with you spiritually.

I don’t care what you think about Warren’s theology, his books, or how he combs his hair. The fact is, he lost a child. Few things can be more painful and nightmarish in this life.

To add insult to injury, just take a look at some of the comments by fellow “Christians” (professing ones at least) to the news. These are comments that were left on various Christian news websites under the Warren article:

Train up your children in the way, live a godly example with right priorities, care enough to home-school despite the great sacrifice involved, don’t let them date unchaperoned, have daily family devotions, turn off the 1-eyed idiot, TRULY HAVE A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE, and your children WILL NOT COMMIT SUICIDE, nor will they be involved in homosexuality, nor fornication.

He killed himself, it’s much worse than fornication or homosexuality or Onanism or eating pork. He denied himself a chance to get better. If your kids need a chaperone to date, why do you let them date? They shouldn’t be dating if they are not mature enough to control themselves.

Suicide happens soon after your stupid enough to read “The Purpose Driven Life”.

Poor Matthew denies God’s Love with suicide.

He could not save his own because Mr. Warren does not truly understand how his own heart works, how it is broken and the mechanism by which Jesus laid out the example of how to fix it. Matthew killed himself because he did not understand either. He was a victim of his own ignorance and the ignorance of his family, friends, society and Christians around him — presently!

Sisters and Brothers, we have not so learned Jesus Christ!

There were more comments like these, unfortunately. And they made me want to vomit.

“If Christians cannot extend grace through faithful presence within the body of believers, they will not be able to extend grace to those outside.”

~ James Davison Hunter

I remember reading a book by Watchman Nee in my youth. In it, Nee made the remark that he observed a certain pattern throughout his life. Every time someone judged another person harshly for a mistake they made or because of something that went wrong in their lives, sometime later, the person who made those harsh judgments had something far worse happen to them.

Having been a Christian for over 30 years now, I’ve observed the same pattern.

Consequently, I fear for those who made these deplorable remarks. The Scriptures clearly teach that how we treat others is how the Lord will treat us. And if we have the knife out for one of His children, we will eventually end up falling on it ourselves.

Paul said you will reap what you sow. That’s written in the heavens.

So be very, very careful how you respond to someone else’s tragedy, mistakes, pain, or loss.

I read the New Testament once 🙂 and Jesus taught that the entire Law and the Prophets is fulfilled in this one statement: Treat others the way you want to be treated in every circumstance.

Ergo, how would YOU want to be treated if you lost a child, a friend, a spouse, a parent, etc.?

How we respond to bad things that happen to others (be they tragedies, failures, or pain) is a barometer that reveals how well we know our Lord.

In fact, there may be no greater test.

So it seems to me anyway . . .

Update: Opposing Views references this article and quotes Viola.


5 thoughts on “A Jesus Response to Suicide

  1. I appreciate and agree with you in your article. I also pray for those who have harsh, insensitive and judgmental thoughts and comments. We serve a God who is Loving, Compassionate, Forgiving….Where is our love, compassion, forgiveness????????

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful article. On to read the Opposing Views post.
    I have one thought concerning some of the comments about Rick Warren’s son. From my perspective and experience I think that those comments are 50/50 meaning yes 50% of them written by insensitive perhaps self-righteous “christians” and 50% written by virile antagonistic trolls in order to incite all kinds of disorder. Percentages may be off but that has been my observation anyway.

  3. Obviously restoration is not possible for the one who is gone. But what about those left behind? The shoulda-coulda-woulda’s need to find another tree to bark up! There is already enough pain that these are experiencing without adding insult to injury–as I’ve seen someone post recently: “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about….be kind.”

  4. Thank you Frank Viola for this much needed article. It has blessed and reassured me so, after losing my first brother in ’09, falling 7 stories, my dad in ’11, heart surgery, our beloved oldest son at age 25, just last year in ’13, from a sudden type of breathing illness (wrote up as heart attack), then just last month, my dear youngest brother of 47 yrs, from suicide… All four of these men were positively born again Christians. Yes indeed, our God the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the precious Holy Spirit are now, have always been and will always be bigger and already Victorious over the darkness of all sin and all disease. Hallelujah yes, even over suicide, for those those of us that have made Jesus our Lord and Savior. That’s why it is so important to be kind and reassure our Christian brethren, so we can be stronger to do the one simple thing The Lord ask of us, to go out and reach the lost for His Namesake. How eternally sad and tragic for those around the world that have not yet come to know Jesus and the hope of our eternal home in Heaven. How exciting it will be however, when we are met by our beloved family and friends in our greeting party the moment we arrive up in Heaven! We are spirit, soul and body designed and patterned after God, so if our body gets sick (like my sons did) and our spirit man is saved by the Blood of Jesus, we go to Heaven. And when we realize that our mind is of the flesh, and it too gets sick, then the Love, Grace, Mercy and all the Goodness The Lord has for us, His own, miraculously preserves our spirit unto Him. Because He is a jealous, yet Loving God on our behalf. He wants us and doesn’t want satan to have us, and after all He has already won the war, He is bigger than satan, therefore He is most certainly bigger than suicide, for those who belong to Him. So let’s look up, get busy winning more to Christ, to try to prevent more suicides so they too can do the same. What an awesome God we do serve, I thank Jesus everyday that He is God and I am not. I look up and praise Him too, that He has total Victory over sickness, disease, and of course suicide… Certainly for His own!

  5. I Believe you have covered it well. Great article. We spend so much time judging others and then we forget to evaluate our own life’s before God.

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