Pastor Jason, our community has recently experienced the pain of teenage suicide. What messages and scriptural truths are you emphasizing as you counsel those affected?
When it comes to truth from scripture, it is important to keep going over and over again the meaning of salvation. Specifically, believers are in the Lord’s hands. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When counseling with teenagers, we have to walk a bit of a tightrope. It’s so important that we counsel about both “trust in salvation” and “importance of life”. Let me explain a bit more of what I mean by that.
On the one hand, we want our students to grasp that Jesus saves—completely and eternally. There is only one unforgiveable sin, that is “blasphemy against the Spirit” or, in other words, the sin of unbelief of the salvation offered through Christ.
If students start believing that suicide sends someone to Hell they are missing the more important teachings of the scriptures. That is, that Jesus saves us. And Jesus states over and over, no one can take one of His out of His hand, and that He will lose none of His own.
So, the key is salvation rather than circumstances. If we know Jesus as our Savior, and He knows us as His own, then we will be with Him forever.
We want students to understand that truth—but not use it as an excuse to make a bad choice. There are times when good theology can lead, mistakenly, to a bad choice.
Students may have the understanding that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”, yet the Bible is very clear: that is not ever meant to be of our doing.
Suicide never is spoken of well in the scriptures. It is not glorified. Whether we look at Judas, of course not a believer, or King Saul “throwing himself on his sword”, it is never commended. The Bible clearly teaches that suicide is not to be a way out.
So, that is a very important truth. A second truth we emphasize to students is the value of life. We are created in God’s image. For example, Ephesians 1 reminds us repeatedly of our worth to, and in, Jesus: believers are chosen, called, adopted, redeemed, etc.
These are beautiful reminders to students of their worth in Jesus. They can fall back on that when times are difficult.
In reality, it is not difficult to counsel about suicide from the scriptures—but it is delicate. We have to be delicate in how we counsel. We must give both the “trust of salvation” and the “importance of life”.
We also have to reinforce the importance of God’s glory. Hebrews 12 reminds us of the saints who endured great suffering for God’s glory. That should be a motivation to us, regardless of our circumstances. And Jesus gave the supreme example by submitting to death on the cross for God’s glory.
All that said, it’s important to reinforce that this is a real issue and challenging for anyone affected. We also have some excellent resources available, for example, Pastor Nate’s recent teaching on the subject. As a pastoral staff, we are always open to talking with anyone seeking counseling.