This Teen Bible Study Guide will begin to answer - Why do people commit or attempt to commit suicide? What is the Bible’s teaching and God’s perspective on suicide?
Suicide is a grisly scourge, a deadly plague. Every year thousands of youth make the voluntary choice to die, and they take their own lives. Statistics show suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 15 to 25 years of age. It is the sixth leading cause of death among those five to 14 years of age! Can you imagine five--year-old children killing themselves? An estimated 500,000 teenagers attempt suicide each year, and about 500 succeed. That number is comparable to the number of fatalities from cancer and homicide! Why do people commit or attempt to commit suicide? What is the Bible’s teaching and God’s perspective on this subject? This discussion guide will begin to probe these important questions.
EXODUS 20:13: “You shall not murder.”
1. What does this commandment say about terminating human life?
2. Does this commandment, in principle, include suicide, self-murder? Why or why not?
EZEKIEL 18:4: “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; ….”
COMMENT: The Bible teaches that each person is a soul, and that a soul is a living, breathing creature.
3. To whom do we belong? Can we say our lives are ours to take? Read also 1 Corinthians:6:19-20.
4. Who only has the prerogative to take human life? Why?
GENESIS 1:26-27: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness; ….’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
COMMENT: The word image suggests reproduction in form and substance, whether physical or spiritual. The word likeness gives the idea of resemblance and outward similarity. God created humans with the intention of adding every person to His Family.
MATTHEW 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment . . . ”
5. Based upon these 2 passages, how much do you think God values every human being?
Why People Attempt Suicide
The specific word suicide is not used in the Bible. However, the Scriptures do chronicle seven suicides or incidents of individuals intentionally killing themselves. Let's consider three of those.
1 SAMUEL 31:3-5: "The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armorbearer, 'Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.' But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him."
1. Why did Saul commit suicide? Why couldn't he face the future?
2. Why did Saul's armorbearer also kill himself? What might he have feared?
MATTHEW 27:3-5: "Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, 'I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.' And they said, 'What is that to us? You see to it!' Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
3. Why did Judas hang himself? What do you think was his state of mind after having betrayed Jesus?
4. Sometimes it isn't fearing that God won't forgive, but it's having to face those whom you've hurt or their relatives that is most difficult. What could you say to such a person to ease his or her burden?
5. Why is it difficult to forgive oneself? If God can forgive, should not we?
COMMENT: Most suicides recorded in the Bible were carried out in response to severe depression and hopelessness. Saul and Judas Iscariot are examples of individuals who had lost all hope of reversing the impact of the decisions they had made. “What causes people to want to kill themselves? There may be as many answers to that question as there are attempts to commit suicide . . . One thing appears to be clear. Persons who attempt to kill themselves view themselves to be in some sort of extreme circumstance . . . Indeed, for many with suicidal thoughts, whether adolescents or adults, ‘circumstances’ or ‘situations’ are at the heart of their desire to put an end to their lives.” [i]
6. What factors in our society today are causing the growing feeling of hopelessness and serious depression in the lives of adolescents and young adults?
There IS Hope
Suicide has much to do with hopelessness. The circumstances of one’s personal predicament can seem overwhelming. The pain can seem unrelenting. Since God has commanded us not to take our own lives, how does He expect us to handle the circumstances and feelings that lead some to consider suicide? Let's see what God says in His Word.
JEREMIAH 33:8: "I [God] will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me."
1. How else could Judas have dealt with his guilt? Read also 1 John:1:8-9. Do you think there are any sins God will not forgive? Why or why not?
2. What can we learn from Psalm:107:10-21 regarding God's willingness to rescue a person from the results of sin?
HEBREWS 13:5: "… For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"
3. What assurance does God provide for those who feel alone, friendless, alienated from others, even family? Need we face dismal future prospects alone?
4. What about those who feel unloved? Read also John:3:16 and 1 John:4:16. Can we be sure we won't lose God's love? Consider Romans:8:38-39 and then answer.
5. How despised was Jesus? (Isaiah:53:3) How was He able to endure? (Hebrews:12:2-3) Can He and will He offer comfort and aid to those so suffering? (Read Hebrews:2:10,18 and 4:15-16.)
1 PETER 5:7: "casting all your care upon Him [God], for He [God] cares for you."
6. What should we do when we are faced with depression? What care or concern or problem can we not take to God?
7. Is God aware of and concerned about even the slightest matters in our lives? Read Matthew:10:29-31 and then comment.
MARK 14:36: " And He [Jesus] said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.'"
8. What situation is impossible for God to solve?
9. What alternative to self-pity is there when one is facing painful situations? Read, too, Philippians 4:13.
10. What promise does God make when we see no solution? Consider also 1 Corinthians:10:13.
COMMENT: Suicide is, at best, a bad option. It really doesn’t solve one’s difficulties. It actually compounds them! In the next split second of your thoughts, you will once again be awake and alive. You will be the same person with the same thoughts, but now you will also have to deal with your own murder. In addition, suicide inflicts tremendous, permanent pain on the surviving family and friends.
There are much better options. Choose to fight the battle and seek out others who can help you fight when you are not strong. Many people do care and will help you through these low points. It may be hard to ask for help, but it is harder to ask them to deal with your suicide!
Suicide is driven by a despairing view of the world around us. God offers us a vision of the future, however, which He gives to strengthen us in our everyday lives. “But as it is written, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1 Corinthians:2:9). And further yet into the future, suffering and death will become part of humanity’s past. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation:21:4). Live for that day and this day will go better!
What You Can Do
If you are contemplating suicide, contact a caring minister (a list of ministers in the United Church of God are listed at http://www.ucg.org/html/church.htm ), or other professional counselor at a suicide prevention center, or telephone 911 for help.
GALATIANS 6:2: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
1. How can you help someone who you suspect to be considering suicide?
COMMENT: One of the most important things we can do is to simply listen to the troubled person. Sometimes talking about their problems will ease the pain. Tell them how you feel about their intention of killing themselves. Remind them that there are many other people who are like them, and that there are people who love them. If they are Christians, remind them of God's love, His help, and His Plan for each person. Then look at the warning signs that are present, take them seriously and call for help. The presence of three or more indicators or warning signs may be viewed as red flags.
Warning Signs of Suicide Risk
Change in personality—becoming sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic.
Change in behavior—can't concentrate on school, work, routine tasks.
Change in sleep pattern—oversleeping or insomnia, sometimes with early waking.
Change in eating habits—loss of appetite and weight, or overeating.
Loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed.
Worry about money, illness (real or imaginary).
Fear of losing control, "going crazy," harming self or others.
Feelings of overwhelming guilt, shame, self-hatred.
No hope for the future-"It will never get better, I will always feel this way."
Drug or alcohol abuse.
Recent loss of a loved one through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship; or loss of job, money, status, self-confidence, self-esteem.
Loss of religious faith.
Suicidal impulses, statements, plans; giving away favorite things; previous suicide attempts or gestures.
Agitation, hyperactivity, restlessness may indicate masked depression. [iii]
A teen contemplating to commit suicide may also:
Complain of being "rotten inside."
Give verbal hints with statements such as: "I won't be a problem for you much longer," "Nothing matters," "It's no use," or "I won't see you again."
Put his or her affairs in order—for example, give away personal possessions, clean his or her room, throw away important belongings, etc.
Become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression.
Taking these modest steps can save many lives and reduce a great deal of human suffering.
[i] Timothy J. Demy, Gary P. Stewart, Suicide: A Christian Response, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1998), pp. 199-200.
[ii] http://www.nami.org/helpline/suicide.htm/ - Signs of depression and suicide risk.
[iii] http://library.thinkquest.org/ - Teen Suicide Warning Signs.