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What Does the Bible Say About Suicide and Depression?

Frequently Asked Questions

Introduction

Suicide is the act of intentionally killing oneself. It is a tragedy not only for person whose life is lost, but also for surviving family and friends who may experience feelings of grief, emptiness, guilt, failure or shame. In the U.S., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and accounts for over 38,000 deaths each year.

Nearly all suicides result from treatable mental disorders. As with other illnesses like heart disease and cancer, suicide deaths cannot be prevented by prayer alone. Professional medical treatment is the answer to our prayers that God provides.

This article tells what the Bible says about suicide, and it also lists professional resources available if you or someone you care about is at risk for suicide.

The Bible

The Bible mentions several instances of suicide (Judges 16:29-30, 1 Samuel 31:4-5, 2 Samuel 17:23, 1 Kings 16:18, Matthew 27:3-5), but it does not give any specific teachings about suicide. However, there are several passages that indicate life is given by God and only God has the right to take it away. For example:

"I came naked from my mother's womb," he said, "and I shall have nothing when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were his to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." (TLB, Job 1:21)

More specifically, God has given life to each of us to do his work on Earth. Our bodies belong to God, not to ourselves. So, it is up to Him to decide when our work on Earth is finished, not up to us:

Haven't you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it. (TLB, 1st Corinthians 6:19-20)

Often, the hard times in our lives, when things may seem hopeless, are really opportunities to learn valuable lessons such as humility, dependence on God, the value of prayer, or to learn how to help others who are suffering. In times when things seem the worst, we can be sure that God loves us more than ever:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (NIV, Luke 12:6-7 )

"For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened. "Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone? "Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (NAS, Matthew 7:8-11)

People often wonder if a person who dies from suicide can be saved and get to heaven, but the Bible does not say anything about this. Most Christians believe what matters most to God is how a person lives his or her life rather than how he or she dies.

Depression

Most thoughts of suicide are associated with the illness depression. Depression was not recognized as a illness in Biblical times, so there are no direct references to it in the Bible. But even Biblical heroes like Jacob (Genesis 37:34-35), Job (Job 3:1-11) and King David (2 Samuel 18:33) apparently suffered from depression at some point in their lives. 

God often uses other people to answer our prayers (Genesis 24:12-16, Ezra 1:1-3, Acts 9:10-17). As with other illnesses, treatment from a healthcare professional is often God's answer to prayers about depression.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is a disorder of the brain that can be treated with medication and/or psychotherapy. Symptoms of depression include:

Anyone feeling severely depressed or having thoughts of suicide should promise himself or herself not to take any action until discussing it with a school guidance counselor, physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, hospital emergency room physician or suicide hotline. All these people are trained to recognize warning signs of depression and to know how to help.

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Suicide

Here is some information from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

The following signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs, seek help as soon as possible.

Free Help Resources

If you, or someone you care about, is depressed or thinking about suicide, it is important to seek help right away. The resources listed below can help you to help yourself or to help someone else. Most of them provide free referrals, help and advice, or just someone to talk to if you are feeling down.

Related Article: Why Does God Allow Evil Things to Happen?

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Last updated July, 2013.