Is Suicide a Sin?

My friend committed suicide and I'm having a hard time with the idea that it was a sin.
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Q. My friend committed suicide and I'm having a hard time with the idea that it was a sin. Can you help me?

A. I'm very sorry your friend committed suicide. Not only was your friend in a great deal of emotional pain and lack of hope, but—as you know—suicide causes an unbelievable amount of pain and confusion among the deceased's loved ones. I hope you have talked to your parents, a pastor or a counselor about your grief and questions. This kind of pain is hard to work through alone.

In the original Greek of the Bible, the phrase to sin literally means "to miss the mark." Therefore, sin is missing the mark for what God wants for our lives. And I'm sure you would agree that suicide is not God's intent or plan for us. It doesn't fit with what we know about God's love for each person. So in that context, it's easy to see that suicide would be a sin. But remember, the Bible is clear that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, NIV). We all miss the mark every day.

Some people wonder if suicide is a different kind of sin because the person committing it cannot repent from it. But as theologian Lewis Smedes once wrote, "All of us commit sins we're too [lost] to recognize as sins. We all die with sins not named and repented of. I believe Jesus died not only for the sins of us all but for all of our sins, including the forgotten ones, including suicide."

Now, I'd like to write to anyone who has a friend they fear may consider suicide. The most important thing we can do for our hurting friends is to help them find hope and joy in living. Suicide is not the answer to dealing with our problems, yet the majority of people say they've thought about suicide. How can you spot a friend who may attempt suicide? There are danger signs including abrupt changes in personality or appearance, talking about suicide, increased promiscuity and drug use, withdrawal from normal life, apathy, hostility, sudden mood shifts, and an inability to handle frustration. (For more, see save.org.)

If you suspect a friend is suicidal (or are considering it yourself), seek help. For immediate help, call New Life Ministries (newlife.com) at 1-800-NEW-LIFE or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org) at 1-800-273-TALK. (For more information, visit suicidehotlines.com or metanoia.org/suicide.)

Millions of people have had suicidal thoughts and millions of people have received the help they needed to live a great life. It takes courage and wisdom to seek help, but it is always worth it.

Jim is an author, longtime youth worker and founder of HomeWord, a group seeking to honor God through strong families.

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