The Eternal Side of Suicide
Can we go one day without the “S”-word spanning the headlines?
How many times will I turn on the radio, or open my news app, and be greeted by a report about another overdose, another shocking discovery of depression, another death?
It’s not a topic anyone really wants to talk about, but with new sobering and harrowing stories popping up everyday, I worry the idea of ending one’s own life is almost becoming… popular.
We all look on with shocked expressions and a tear in our eye, but it feels to me our society has become desensitized to the actual gravity and sanctity of human life. (Have you seen half the shows on TV?)
What is it?
Let’s define suicide. Dictionary.com gives these three definitions:
- the intentional taking of one’s own life.
- destruction of one’s own interests or prospects.
- a person who intentionally takes his or her own life.
Essentially, these all mean the same thing. However, I think it is worth pointing out a few key differences between these definitions.
The first is what we generally think of when we hear suicide. The act of killing one’s self; of making the decision, planning it out, and going through with ending one’s mortal life. It is a word and an act we associate with mental illness, because in most cases, a sane, happy, stable person wouldn’t think of committing such an act.
The second definition is meant figuratively, though it poses an interesting idea. Say Harry wants to take a big risk, because if he can pull it off it will fix everything. His friend Larry tells him it’s suicide, insinuating that Harry shouldn’t do it, that it won’t bring about the result Harry is hoping for. “Destruction” is a pretty graphic word, and it is used here to illustrate what a big deal this is. This definition puts the idea of suicide in a negative light.
The third and final interpretation could be seen as a repetition of the first. It goes a step further though, from naming the act to renaming the person who commits it. The victim is transformed into a statistic, no longer an individual, but a suicide. A terrible notion, don’t you agree?
Why talk about it?
One of my readers requested this article. This person wanted to know my thoughts on the eternal consequences of suicide.
I hold a unique view of eternity compared to most of the world. I am religious and a Christian, but my understanding, which is based on my study in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, expands beyond just heaven and hell.
Obviously, different religions have varying views on suicide and on what happens after someone dies, but if we focus on Christendom for the sake of this article, what I’ve heard from many institutions is that suicide is a sin. This means that anyone who commits suicide will go to hell for all eternity.
Maybe you disagree, but I cannot fathom that a loving God would not have compassion on His sick, lonely, and lost children. I believe that those who die from suicide are victims, just the same as those who are murdered. This is because, as stated before, anyone who is stable and mentally-well understands his or her own worth and that there is still something to live for even when life is hard. Most individuals lean towards self-preservation when faced with a dangerous situation. The innate human response is to protect and preserve life. Surely God will recognize when something is off.
As someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts, I’ve spent a large portion of time pondering over the eternal consequences that come into play. I especially struggled on my church service mission, which I basically chronicled in poetic form in A Letter to Last Year. At that point in my life, I was grasping at anything I could find from church leaders about this topic. I could only find a few talks and articles, and the scriptures seemed to reinforce only what I knew, that my Heavenly Father loved me, and wanted me to return to Him when this mortal journey was over.
Those reassurances should have brought me peace and renewed strength to continue fighting my invisible battle, right? God was on my side, so I didn’t need to worry, right? If I just kept praying and endured with all my might, mind, and strength, everything would get better, right?
No. Unfortunately, my thoughts took a different turn.
I read about the peace that comes through Christ, and about the better world that He made possible. In small moments, that peace would touch my heart, but a second later I’d be bombarded with missiles of doubt, fear, and loneliness. So what I hoped for, what I longed for, was a place where that peace could stay with me. And in my sick brain, I twisted the meaning of the scriptures to make suicide a door to that eternal peace.
My Heavenly Father loved me, and wanted me to return to Him, right? So why not return to Him now? Why should I wait for mortality to take its course? Why not put an end to the torment, and step into the next phase of eternity? I’d lost people before, and in my church we always talked about all the good they were doing on the other side. Why couldn’t I join them? Why not exercise my freedom of choice to pull myself out my hopeless circumstance?
I received a very straightforward answer to all of these questions one night, after I’d written my notes and knelt down to beg God to take my life.
Every person has a purpose here on earth. If you are hanging on with your very last bit of strength, ask God what your purpose is. I promise you that God will tell you exactly what He needs you here for.
Is that specific answer going to change all the thoughts in your head? Will it cure whatever it is you are struggling with?
What it will do is take suicide off the table, and give you something to focus on and to live towards. It will help you to understand your own worth. It will change you from the hopeful Harry in my earlier example, who believes that the risk of taking his own life will be worth all the peace that follows, to the Larry in the same example, who knows destruction isn’t the right path.
What does the church say?
In past weeks, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints released a series of videos on this subject. They can be found here.
I personally was touched by Elder Renlund’s initial remarks:
What I understand from these videos is that we cannot judge those who take their own lives. There is an invisible struggle we are not privy to.
What about eternity?
The tragedy of suicide lies not so much in the eternal fate of the soul, but in the missed opportunities in mortality. God will care for His children, and those who take their own lives will be judged fairly and with love when on the other side.
The thing is, we don’t get another shot at life on earth. Now is our chance to experience and explore human life with a mortal body and mind, and a separation from heaven. Here we have the luxury of making mistakes and learning from them. Now is when we make the choices that will affect us forever.
I wrote a song when I was struggling, after I’d received God’s direction concerning my purpose. It is so scary to feel attacked from the inside, but we are not alone in our fight.
If you have any questions, or just want to discuss more about this topic, please leave a comment below. We all benefit when we can share ideas in a safe and supportive place, and when we provide a chance to lift one another.