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by Brian Flewelling on November 07, 2023
Does a person have a right to commit suicide?
The short answer is No!—even if bioethicists are pushing harder and harder for this to be true.
The next logical question, then, is, why not?
The more detached from God our society has become, the more our understanding of human life and its value has been lost. Traditionally, your philosophy about life and its origins directly affects your belief about yourself and others. Are you a pointless evolutionary fluke floating through meaningless space that won’t miss you when you’re gone? Or are you the artistic masterpiece of a compassionate Father and Creator who loves you and wants you to know him personally? Do you see how your grand view of the Universe directly affects the way you see yourself and others?
So, why is it wrong to take your own life? The logic goes...if you are in pain, or if you are debilitated, or if you are suffering, then you should have the power to choose to end your own suffering, right?
Again, the short answer is No!
Responsibility, Not Free Choice
The Apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” The logic is pretty simple. You don’t belong to yourself. You belong to God. You don’t give yourself meaning. God gives you meaning. You don’t give yourself value and purpose. God considered you so valuable he paid for your life with his son’s life. No one has the right to throw that away.
God didn’t grant mankind endless liberties without restraint. He entrusted us with the responsibility to act rightly and wisely. He created us as his image-bearers who are to act according to his nature: “let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). As God’s image-bearers, we represent God to his creation. And as his image bearers, we represent God to other people.
As his image-bearers, we even represent God to ourselves. If I murder someone else, I have acted outside of the character of God and have become a false witness to God’s image. I then become morally accountable for my lawless choice to live outside of his moral framework. In the same way, I bear the responsibility to represent God’s love and compassion to myself.
Some people have been so injured, abused, and verbally harassed by others that they don’t even know how to value themselves or how to protect themselves. The Lord wants to remove destructive beliefs about ourselves and diminished ideas about what makes us valuable. Self-compassion and self-forgiveness may be an essential part of the mental and spiritual journey some of us need to take in order to preach God’s gospel of love to ourselves.
What About Suffering
A lot of people are fixated on suffering, as if suffering gives a person permission to end their own journey. The assumption is that somehow suffering is the ultimate evil: it’s too hard, it’s too painful, it’s wrong of God to make me endure this, and I have the right to end it. That’s quite a tight spot to get trapped into in your thinking. I want to give us a handful of ideas and truths to combat this mentality, whether you are personally struggling or whether you may find yourself helping someone else who’s struggling.
1. Life is not hopeless, and suffering is only a season
Hard times don’t last forever, and there will be a new horizon. God is a redeemer who renews all things. Just when it looks like the bleak winter is at its worst, the season changes, and the bright yellow tulips burst out of the hard ground. God has a future and a plan for your life that isn’t measured by how beautiful or successful you are. It’s measured by his abundant life inside of you. He gives us hope to live for. Psalm 103:4 says, “(the Lord) redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” Romans 8:18 also says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
2. Purpose in pain: God uses us even while we are suffering
God can use our pain; our suffering isn’t purposeless. Even while our mind or health may be deteriorating, we can still be a blessing to our family, our grandchildren, the people in our church, or those in the hospital. We still have life in our lungs and friendship and joy to offer others. 1 Corinthians 1:4 says, “(God) comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
3. Palliative care
God is a caregiver and a healer; he does not delight in suffering or pain. Yes, he can use suffering to grow us, but he will also work to minimize and eliminate suffering. We, too, can lean into medicines or therapies or relationships or prayer that minimizes pain and restores health and wholeness. Listen to the Messiah’s mandate in Isaiah 61 and tell me he isn’t a restorative caregiver:
the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captive,and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favorand the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes
4. Joy in the midst of sorrow
Pain and suffering do not have to define your reality. We can still experience profound joy in the midst of suffering and difficulty. Some of the most joyful people I’ve known have experienced some of the greatest tragedies. In his letter to the Philippian church, the Apostle Paul described that strange mixture, that while even sharing in Christ’s sufferings, he experienced an indescribable depth of joy. The same can be true for us as well. Jesus is the life-giver, and suffering cannot stop him from giving you abundant life.
5. You’re not alone; God wants you to encounter him in your suffering
God promised never to abandon you. He draws near to those who are broken and hurting. Listen to this wonderful encouragement in Psalm 145:18, “The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” It's often when we are at our lowest and most desperate, or most unworthy and shameful that we witness how compassionate God is and how close to us he wants to be.
We sometimes forget how precious life is, how extravagant and extraordinary it is. Life truly is a gift. Of course, there will be bruises on the journey. But life is an irreplaceable gift from your loving Father to you. Don’t squander it. Don’t cheapen it. Don’t shorten it, not one little bit. Look for him and draw near to him; he is with you in every step of your journey.
[If someone you love has taken their life, you can read more helpful encouragements from Pastor Lester Zimmerman in a pamphlet he wrote called The Anguish of Suicide.]
Tags: hope, joy, suffering, sorrow, pain, purpose, friendship, murder, suicide, hopelessness, free choice, palliative care, care giver
Brian serves as the Equipping Pastor at Petra. Brian also serves as part of the Sunday morning teaching team. You may also hear him teaching in various other ministry settings, using his Bible study and teaching gifts to bless others.
Before coming on staff at Petra in 2010, Brian and his wife Kristina served as missionaries for four years with Eagles’ Wings Ministry in Clarence, NY. Brian has a BA in Biblical Studies and studied at Jerusalem University College in Israel for a semester.
The Flewellings are thrilled with their three children: Ariana, Sophia, and Elliot. When not involved in ministry or family life, Brian enjoys hiking, reading, and relaxing with friends.
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