Chapter 5

Entrusting Our Loved Ones to God

Chapter Five: Entrusting Our Loved Ones to God

Many of us fear that suicide means our loved ones are lost to us forever, that suicide automatically separates them from God eternally. And some traditions have believed that suicide is an unforgivable sin. But this comes more from Augustine and medieval theology than from Scripture. The Bible nowhere says that suicide is the unforgivable sin.

When the Bible describes suicides, it does so in a matter-of-fact, straightforward way, as accounts of lives where something has gone wrong. There are seven suicides in the Bible, from King Saul to Judas. While all of them are tragic, the Bible doesn’t say that those who took their lives prematurely are separated from God for eternity. In fact, Samson died at his own hand, but he is still recorded in Hebrews 11:32 among the hall of the faithful.

Part of the result of living in a fallen world is that things are broken. Our bodies get cancer or heart disease, and sometimes we have no reason or cause behind it. It’s just the way things are. The same is true with our brains. Sometimes things go wrong with our brain chemistry, and people fall into depression or mental illness. They are not necessarily making a choice the way we normally think of making a choice. We needn’t blame somebody for dying because something went wrong with their body; nor should we blame someone for dying because something went wrong in their mind.

The biblical narrative reveals a Creator-God whose fundamental orientation towards the broken is one of deep compassion. Scripture portrays God as one who shepherds those who need his care, who seeks and saves the lost. Romans 8:38–39 declares that neither life nor death—not even death by suicide—can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

Ultimately we can entrust our loved ones to God’s care. We should steer clear of spending excessive time agonizing about our loved one’s destiny. Better off relinquishing them to God and his mercy.

Sometimes we wonder where God is in the midst of our pain. I am grateful that the biblical picture of God is not of a cold, distant, abstract God. The God of the Bible is one who understands human suffering. In Jesus, God became flesh, and dwelt among us, experiencing all our human pains and griefs. And Jesus himself was the Suffering Servant, who experienced untold agony as he died on the cross. God is a suffering God, and he stands in solidarity with suffering humanity.

But that’s not all. God doesn’t only suffer; he makes a way through suffering. After the crucifixion comes the resurrection! The Christian story proclaims that death does not have the final word. In the resurrection of Jesus, God has defeated the powers of death and decay and is making all things new.

As Christians, we participate in the resurrection. We have hope of a new life beyond this one. Death is not the end of the story.

A story at the end of the Gospel of Luke gives us encouragement. After the death of Jesus, two pilgrims are walking home on the road to Emmaus. They’re still in shock, grieving the loss of their rabbi and friend. They thought he would be their savior, that he would redeem Israel. But now he’s dead and gone. How could this have happened? How could they go forward from here?

As they’re walking and grieving, trying to make sense of the death of their beloved teacher, a stranger comes alongside them on the road. They begin to talk, and he shares from the Scriptures how the Messiah would suffer. They come to their home and invite the stranger in to stay with them. As they have a meal together, the stranger breaks bread, and in that moment their eyes are opened, and they recognize Jesus (see Luke 24:30–32).

As they journeyed through their grief, they felt God’s absence. But Jesus was still present with them, even though they hadn’t recognized him yet. That’s the way it is in grief sometimes. It’s one of the paradoxes of Christian faith; when God seems most absent, he is actually most present with us. In our suffering and pain, our suffering Savior draws near to us.