I was joined this morning by my lovely bride and our second oldest daughter for a “Triangle Route” 5k. Perhaps it would be most correct to say that my bride and I joined our second oldest daughter on her daily 5k. She was rocking! We were just along for the ride!
We ran 3.1 miles in 29 minutes and 43 seconds, which was an average pace of 9:34 per mile. Abigail just chugged away the whole time. She is a machine!
As I was reading John 8-10 this morning, I was stopped in one particular section, and deeply encouraged by another.
First, the stopper.
So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” (John 8:21–22, ESV)
I understand that this is a sensitive subject, so I will try to handle it with care.
Today’s reading led me to thinking about the suicide epidemic in our nation. That is what is going on here, in the passage. Jesus said that He is going away and they will not see Him because where He is going they cannot go. It is curious that they assumed He meant to kill Himself. In traditional Jewish law, people who commit suicide should not even receive a proper burial. In some traditions, the hand that was used to commit the act (the hand that held the sword, for example) would be cut off before the body was buried.
Is it possible that their response shows a cultural understanding that those who commit suicide would end up in a different place from those who die a natural death? Everyone will die eventually, but they understood Jesus’ words to indicate that He will die in an unnatural way -leading Him to a place where they themselves would never go.
The clear teaching of the Bible is that we were made by God in the image of God to live lives for the glory of God. Over and over again throughout the Scriptures God consistently forbids murder. Suicide is murder of self.
Job reminds us that the Lord is the One who gives and takes away.
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21, ESV)
The Psalmist reminds us that our lives are in God’s hands.
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! (Psalm 31:15, ESV)
Solomon, Elijah, Jonah, and the Apostle Paul all experienced moments in their lives where they wished they could just die. Life can be hard -even (maybe especially) for those who follow hard after God!
I think the reality that God allows hardships in our lives in order to produce character is important. He believes in us and wants us to persevere. I also think that we will be rewarded in heaven for the things that we did or said for Christ on earth.
Ultimately suicide is self-focused and is in no way God-honoring or God-focused.
Biblically speaking, we know of six people throughout the Scriptures who committed suicide. Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 31:4), Saul’s armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:4-6), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas (Matthew 27:5).
This is not exactly a list of “Heroes of the faith”. In fact, I don’t believe this is a list of names that I would want my name to be attached to in any way. These men were all described as doing evil in the sight of the LORD (with the exception of Saul’s armor-bearer, whom we don’t really know much about). This is NOT a list of names of people who worshiped the LORD, who honored the LORD, and who followed hard after the LORD. This is a list of self-focused, self-honoring individuals, who, when the going got tough, leaned on their own understanding instead of the LORD’s.
When faced with the opportunity to worship or worry, they chose worry. They chose despair. They chose to take their lives into their own hands instead of trusting their lives into the hands of God -come what may.
I want my last act on earth to be one of worship, not worry. The key, I believe, is being willing to understand that there is a bigger picture than what we can see right now. God has a plan and He often allows us to travel through valleys in order to get to the mountaintop. He is good. He is with us. All of this can be impossible to see with our natural eyes, so we often have to simply believe it by faith -which honors God and blesses us. Think of what Jesus later said to Thomas: “You see and believe, but blessed are those who do not see and yet believe!” (see John 20:29, though this verse is taken out of context, I think the principle remains).
I know that this can be a hard subject. The reality is that every one of us have likely been affected in one way or another by suicide. Perhaps we have considered it, ourselves. Perhaps we have experienced the tremendous difficulty of a loved one taking their own life. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it is also entirely possible that we have been affected because we had to explain to our way-too-young children that one of their classmates committed suicide. My intention in expounding on this verse was not to pass judgment, but to simply talk about it.
To be clear, suicide is NOT God’s plan for your life.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)
As long as you draw breath, God has a good plan for your life! I was reminded again of this as I continued in today’s Bible reading.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, ESV)
Satan is the “thief”. He wants to steal from us, kill us, and destroy us. He wants to end our lives whether by his hand or by our own. In fact, when Judas (one of the six mentioned above) betrayed Jesus, which ultimately led to the despair that drove him to hang himself, he was following the will of Satan.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. (Luke 22:3–4, ESV)
During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, (John 13:2, ESV)
We DO NOT have to follow that plan. We can always choose to follow God’s plan.
Jesus left heaven and came to earth to show us how to live. He died on the cross to pay for our sins. God raised Him from the dead to show that the payment was sufficient!
He did this for us so that we could experience abundant life! He wants us to experience abundant life now, and abundant life with God forever in heaven when we naturally pass from this life to the next!
Are you experiencing that abundant life today?! Don’t give in to the empty promises and persuasion of the thief. Give your life fully to Jesus.
The future and hope that God has for us can be found. Jeremiah helps us understand how in the verses that follow the promise.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11–13, ESV)
*5k Every Day in the Month of May 2018 is brought to you by Jeff Polen Music and Vertical Runner of Wooster. If you are joining the fun, don’t forget about the Facebook group, the Strava group, and the printable PDF.