Can People Who Die By Suicide Be Saved?

There’s a reason we ask the question about the possibility of salvation for those who take their own lives. Suicide exposes the radical brokenness of the deceased. It rips the hearts and vexes the minds of those left behind. It subverts God’s interest in life. Can one die opposing God and still be saved? In thinking about the tragedy of suicide, biblical truth should both warn and comfort us.

Suicide Is Sin

Suicide is self-murder, the unlawful taking of one’s own life. It violates God’s desire for human flourishing and cheapens the value of humans as divine image-bearers (Gen. 1:26). God cares so much about human life that he enshrined its protection in one of the 10 basic laws–“You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13)–imposing serious consequences for violation (Gen. 9:6). Suicidal ideation challenges God’s goodness and resists his promise to sanctify the suffering of his children. To use the language of a seventeenth century confession of faith, suicide is a serious, outrageous, and monstrous sin.[1]

Still, human sin cannot cancel God’s grace in the elect.

Suicide Is Not the Unpardonable Sin

The sin for which there is no forgiveness is not self-murder, but a relentless rejection of the Spirit’s Christ-promoting ministry (Matt. 12:31—32). Converted people, true believers, can “by their own fault depart from the leading of grace, be led astray by the desires of the flesh, and give in to them.”[2] But even then, our merciful God does not take his Spirit from his children, cancel their adoption, or renege his decision to justify them. Through the gift of saving faith, God pardons true believers from every sin–past, present, and future. Believers’ eternal security is guaranteed by the Father’s eternal election (Eph. 1:5—6), Christ’s vicarious sacrifice (John 3:14—16), and the Spirit’s indwelling (2 Cor. 1:22). The murderer David knew the blessedness of one “whose transgression is forgiven . . . to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity” (Ps. 32:1—2). Death–even when self-inflicted–cannot separate God’s children from his relentless love in Christ (Rom. 8:39). To call suicide the unpardonable sin underestimates the radicalness of sin–even as committed by true saints, and the power of God’s grace over sin.

Death by suicide cannot cancel God’s work of salvation. When sin increases, grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20). But we should never sin that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1). We should carry on in faith no matter how hard life feels.

God Can Rescue the Most Hopeless

There are better ways of expressing deep hurt than self-harm. Here are two ways those who are struggling terribly can help themselves choose life over death:

  1. Learn the sad psalms. The sheer number of lament psalms helps us realize that feelings of sadness, torment, and brokenness are common for believers. And if sadness is normal, suicide is not necessary. Rather than choosing death to give voice to unrelenting pain, internalizing psalms of lament can provide “the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax necessary to lay your heart before God in lamentation” giving you “the resources to cope with your . . . suffering, despair and heartbreak, and to keep worshipping and trusting through even the blackest of days.”[3]
    Asaph’s soul refused to be comforted (Ps. 77:2). He couldn’t sleep or speak (v. 4). He questioned God’s grace (v. 9). But his sad “song in the night” (v. 6) eventually helped him believe that God was faithful even when he couldn’t feel it. Singing sad psalms can lead us to Jesus, who lived out their nightmares more consistently than the original human writers. Darkness became Jesus’ companion (Ps. 88:18) because God so loved the world (John 3:16).
  2. Talk to a friend. We often find in human friendship the grace to press on. After a friend’s suicide, a loved one wrote, “He did not allow himself to be vulnerable enough to be truly loved. He carried the weight of many burdens on himself instead of fully giving them to the Lord and leaving them there.”

Once when John Bunyan’s Christian and Hopeful were locked in the dungeon of Doubting Castle, Christian began to despair of his life. He contemplated suicide. But Hopeful counseled him: “My Brother, said he, remembrest thou not, how valiant thou hast been heretofore . . . I am in the dungeon with thee, a far weaker man by nature than thou art . . . and with thee I mourn . . . but let’s exercise a little more patience.” The next day, Christian remembered God’s promise, and the two escaped Doubting Castle. Christian’s spiritual friend was like his reserve tank of hope. We are led to believe that had Christian been in Doubting Castle alone, he would not have made it out.

If you’ve ever considered taking your own life, please do not make a permanent decision for what may well be a temporary problem. Eugene Peterson is right: “Feelings are great liars.”[4] What we feel–however dark and hopeless–is not always so. Jesus’ disciples felt devastated; his death seemed to prove that he had not been the one who was to redeem Israel (Luke 24:21). Yet the risen Christ was within reach of their trembling fingers.

Together, let us press on, living by faith, not sight (2 Cor. 5:7). “For, ‘yet a little while, andthe coming one will come and will not delay’” (Heb. 10:37).


[1] Canons of Dort, 5:4, 5.

[2] Canons of Dort, 5:4.

[3] Carl Trueman, “What Can Miserable Christians Sing,” in The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historic and Contemporary Evangelicalism (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2004), 162.

[4] Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Downers Grove, Il.:1980), 50.

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