Troubling Rise in Justifying Suicide in the Body of Christ

Image result for suicide left behindOver the last 6 years numerous pastors from churches in America have killed themselves. I kept count, for a while, until the suicides were happening to often to keep up. I am not sure of the statistics, but it is possible that suicide among pastors has been a regular, albeit hidden occurrence (due to the rather necessary stigma attached to it). Maybe in the age of social media, families and churches cannot cover up an attempted or successful suicide, as in previous times.

The point is that whenever we read or hear of a Christian committing suicide, especially among those who lead, we ought to be very, very troubled. But rather than sound the alarm that the enemy has gotten into the camp and is killing, stealing and destroying, we seem to be more concerned over the final destination of those who have taken their lives.

Recently Andrew Stoecklein attempted to kill himself in the church he led, as the senior pastor. He did this without saying goodbye to his three boys all under the age of 8. I have written “attempted” because he did not quite finish himself off, therefore his 29 year old wife, had to suffer hours of torment in the hospital, as the rest of his life ebb out; imagine how horrible that must have been for her.

This story is familiar, to far too many saints over the last six years, as many of them have been reported by the Christian Post. Following such high profile suicides, far to many Christians and “evangelical leaders”, are in a hurry to excuse the suicide, and pronounce the deceased to be in heaven, because the person “accepted the Lord”.

Once again, this should be very troubling, as we live in a culture where life is cheap; from murdering the unborn, to racial hatred growing in all colors of people, to moving towards euthanizing the old, the in-firmed, or those who simply no longer want to live. Consider that one can download and app, which targets teens, for the purpose of egging them on to commit suicide. Police in cities across the U.S. have been notifying parents of the power of this app, and how normal kids can become suicidal through us of the app.

The church must awaken not only to these dangers, but be very concerned about the potential power of sinful example in suicide, producing the same corrupt fruit in others. This concern should be as great as our concern over abortion, or sexual immorality and perversion; and even greater than our worry of politicians that are contrary to our biblical view point and lifestyle.

No matter what side of the eternal security we debate one stands, we ought to recognize how quitting on life and hope in Jesus, in leaders will lead to quitting on life and hope in Jesus, in some or many who follow.

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Below I have include a link to the article from the Christian Post, where Andrew Stoecklein’s widow, declares he is in heaven, as well as denouncing what she calls the “myth” that suicide victims are condemned to hell.

Although I do not uphold her position on either, I also do not condemn her for trying to grasp some small thread of hope (as thin as it may be). This devastated woman is trying to make sense out of a senseless act, which has not only devastated her own person, but also the lives of her three precious sons; whose pain I cannot even fathom.

Please read the article and leave your thoughtful opinions in my comments section. I will not answer all comments, but hope to read your biblical informed viewpoints.

This coming Sunday (9/26/2018), I will be sharing a message entitled “Suicide Solution?”, which deals what the Word of God says about the consequence of suicide for the one taking their life, as well as in those who are left behind. Join us at 10:45 a.m. at the Savior’s Chapel, if you are in Greece NY — Brother Mike

Below is the link

Pastor Andrew Stoecklein’s Widow Explains Why His Suicide Does Not Condemn Him to Hell

About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
This entry was posted in Kayla Stoecklein's, Pastor Andrew Stoecklein's, scriptural teaching on suicide, suicide, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Troubling Rise in Justifying Suicide in the Body of Christ

  1. Tom Dooley says:

    I think there is much to be concerned with when it comes to suicide especially among those in ministry. Before I get into the theology issues, I would offer a possible reason why Pastors and Christians fail prey to this heinous enemy. Within the church there has been a failure to acknowledge the seriousness of mental illness. Too often issues like depression are dismissed as simply a lack of faith or caused by some other spiritual deficiency. I suppose part of the reason for this is a lack of understanding of how depression works. Many pastors are type A personalities and are driven to exhaust themselves and sacrifice themselves ….sincerely focused on advancing the kingdom. They are prime candidates for depression. As I’m sure you know, being a Pastor is extremely stressful. Stress depletes serotonin in the brain and in cases where a person’s brain is unable to replenish serotonin adequately that person will experience depression regardless of how spiritual they are. We understand if someone has a broken arm… but we can’t seem to get our mind around someone having a broken brain. I have had experience with suicide up close as a Pastor and also within my family. In the cases I am most familiar with the individuals involved were mentally ill and not in their right minds. I personally went through a period in which I battled deep depression. There were days when the pain was excruciating. I went through times when my ability to reason was suspect at best. By God’s grace I survived. I was able to get the medical help I needed as well as the emotional and spiritual support I needed. Not everyone who finds themselves on the depression path gets the help they need. Sometimes pride gets in the way. Sometimes impatience is a contributing factor. Let me explain. When truly depressed you get to a point where you are convinced things will never get better. When you feel that way suicide begins to appear inviting. If I had not been encouraged over and over to give the meds and counseling time to work I might have thrown in the towel too. I say all of that because as pastors we need to be careful not to dismiss serious physiological and psychological problems. Our spiritual life is intertwined with our whole being, I don’t minimize that fact. During my difficulties my faith did not waver, it was my anchor, but I still had the physiological issue to face. Again by God’s grace I recovered. My counsel to those who are dealing with depression is one… get checked out by a doctor…eliminate any medical cause. Two…get spiritual encouragement and strength. Be willing to get counsel. I have been long winded about this because it is an issue that has hit close to home. I wish Christians were better informed especially about mental illness. Those dealing with mental illness are extremely vulnerable to demonic temptation to take their lives. As far as the eternal destiny of one who commits suicide I would say the answer lies in the doctrine of justification. Every person goes into eternity either justified or not justified. Only those who are trusting Jesus as their Savior…the one who paid for their sins ECT. are justified. No one is justified by works…but BY faith…in Christ alone. We are saved by faith…and we stay saved by faith… not by works and not by never sinning. Those justified don’t practce sin or live a life characterized by sin. A pursuit of holiness is an evidence of justification. The issue is…can someone who is justified commit suicide? Now ask the same question and substitute the word suicide with any other sin. For example, can a justified person tell a lie? Justification is based on Christ’s work and His righteousness (sinlessness). I would argue that it is possible for a justified person to commit suicide. That doesn’t minimize the seriousness of the sin, it reminds us of the greatness of God’s grace, the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, and the power of God to save. As far as I know suicide is not the unpardonabe sin…so it would have to be forgivable. I would argue that a justified person could yield to the temptation of endng their life. Suicide is tragic. It is painful for those left behind. It’s sinfulness and seriousness should never be minimized. Keep in mind that the vast majority of those who commit suicide are not in their right mind. Sometimes Christians lose battles. Thankfully Jesus has won the war!

    • Hello Tom, it is great to hear from you and our entire family loves and prays God’s blessing on you and your family, as well as the church you pastor, whom we love. I appreciate your experience and thoughtful response, and council people similarly in situations of depression, but need to respond in love to your comments.

      Like you, suicide and crippling depression have touched my life. My “clinical depression” led me to the point of suicide before I was justified by faith in Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf. In fact, before I was saved and in the moment before I was to kill myself, God literally spoke to me… “If you kill yourself, you will me Me as a murderer”; that was all it took for me to not kill myself. By metal illness diagnosis, I was literally a mess. Now I did not take my life, but still had to deal with the mental stuff that had more to do with spiritual issues than actual physically diagnosed brain illness or damage. This is why your premise on mental illness and depression needs some further work. Let me explain.

      I do not deny that there are actual physiological brain conditions which can be measured, such as CTE or PTSD. With CTE we have seen some very self-destructive and harmful behaviors in athletes whose brains are actually damaged by repeated blows to the head. In the case of PTSD, a person who is exposed to repeated traumatic circumstances, where they are unable to process the traumatic experience intellectually, actually have their brain structure altered.

      In these cases their reaction center or “fight or flight” or emotional response center, called the “amygdala”, is forced to fire over and over. This hinders the hippocampus, the brain’s center of stored memories for thought out process, to be over-ridden. In cases of PTSD in children and adults their hippocampus is often much smaller than it ought to be. This can be seen through structural brain scan. But in these cases medicine (pharmaceuticals) have no effect in realigning the damaged physical structure. These cases actually prove that there are physical mental illness and brain damage.

      Mental illness, as you define it, including depression and anxiety, have no actual physically discernible link. You mentioned serotonin, and you would be fairly accurate in your description, except that low serotonin is diagnosed based solely on symptoms, not actual chemical evidence. In fact the only two tests available to attempt to track this are a PET scan or spinal tap, both of which are inconclusive. The only other way is to actually take brain tissue and scramble it up, and look at it under a microscope. Guess what, no even on the menu. The point is we are taking the word of doctors, who prescribe medicines that may or may not be working at all; in fact all these pharmaceuticals have symptoms that potentially drive up the risk of suicide.

      I agree many pastors do not understand metal illness! But many give way too much credence to medical diagnosis which is less reliable, than we care to admit. And we are afraid to express, for fear of looking like Benny Hinn that suicide from hopelessness, despair and depression in the faithful is often a matter of faith and unbelief. Let me explain

      Your depiction of men who sincerely want to serve God and burn themselves out in that sincerity is dear to my own experience, as you know, but let’s define it correctly. When we are trying to make it happen for God, even in sincerity, we are stepping out of the will of God, and placing ourselves at risk… this is not to be living righteously. Now before I get blasted with “your saying we’re saved by works” I am not. I am simply saying if we are ahead of God and worn out, regardless of motive, it is unrighteous and all unrighteousness is sin (I John 5:17). In this case, as we recognize by His Holy Spirit the genesis of our depression, anxiety, or physical tiredness… we are grateful “If we confess our faults He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

      Let’s be honest, sincerity is not the most prevalent reason for the “mental illness” we pastors fall into, but pride and ambition masquerading as sincerity, piety and humility. This may sound awful, but consider that “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:7). As with verse 9 both of these promises and blessings are contingent upon the word “IF”. Once more this is not to say we are saved by works, we are not, but we have accountability in persevering in faith and hope. N.T. Scripture is clear on this point.

      1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

      Colossians 1:21-23 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

      Hebrews 3:6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.

      Hebrews 3:12-14 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,

      Let us first dispense with the laughable argument that Hebrews was not written to Christians or written to those who were entertaining the idea of becoming Christians. The writer, by the Holy Spirit calls them brethren and declares they are the house of Christ, if they continue in the faith. Hebrews was written to believers who were in fear over intensifying persecution from Jews, who were attempting to force them back to the OT system.

      In all the above passages, our relational union to Christ is maintained or severed by our continuance in the faith, rather than walking in unbelief (Romans 11:17-23). Once more this is not justification by meritorious works of righteousness, but by continuing in belief and the hope of our faith. This is perhaps what suicide so aptly illustrates. Those who attempt it show they have lost hope in Christ, or wrongly believed that God gave them permission to commit sin.

      Our hope is not the absence of suffering here, but bliss when we are with Jesus. I John 2:2-3 declares that this hope purifies those who have it, even as Jesus Himself is pure. This also lines up with Hebrews 12:1-3 and Isaiah 26:3 which declares “the man who is fixated on Him, will be kept in perfect peace. I affirm you held to your faith to the end, and as you said by god’s grace, yet you need to still choose faith, rather than despair.

      Those who commit suicide under the title of Christian, whether in ministry or not are choosing unbelief, which cannot be repented of. This places that person in very poor case with God, if not a terrifying one, as they depart hope and confidence in the living God, as well as the assembling of the saints (Hebrews 3:12-14, 10:19-3).

      To declare that those who are justified by faith and kill themselves with be in heaven, is oxymoronic. How can one be justified by faith, when they did not continue in the hope of that faith until the end? Faith is not a one-time act, but a continuous present tense holding to the truth.
      With respect, your inclusion of the unpardonable sin, is puzzling. Scripture clearly defines blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as unpardonable sin. So are you suggesting that a person, who goes to a church, cheats on his taxes, cheats on his wife and watches pornography repeatedly is justified by faith, so long as in 1989 he “accepted Jesus”, because none of his sin is unpardonable?

      To make this clearer I Peter 1:15-16 commands we are to be holy as He is holy. Too your credit you live and teach this, I know, but let me go a step further. I do not believe that murder, adultery, lying, homosexuality, even murder of infants are unpardonable, so long as the person truly repents, which is not confession, but a change of mind which leads to different choices. For the Christian, we are not saved by doing good works, but by grace through faith, for a purpose. That purpose is to bring the hope of Christ to a lost world, yet that hope must be carried in faith and held to till the end of your life, and God alone is to make that decision on the end of life.

      Murder is not unpardonable, even in a Christian, so long as the practice does not continue being repented of, yet suicide cannot be repented of and is the ultimate denial of our hope in Christ, saying even He can’t deliver me from my pain. I wonder what would have happened when Paul hit the blackness of depression and suffering, and he would have killed himself, rather than learning more of God in the moment.

      2 Corinthians 1:8-10 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,

      Those who commit suicide in ministry have lost faith that God will deliver them, as well as believing wrongly, that God would allow them to be tempted beyond what they were able to stand up under, with His aid (I Corinthians 10:12-13).

      Suicide does not testify to the greatness of God’s grace, it declares the person no longer believes in the grace of His presence to uphold and deliver in impossibility. Consider the torture of seeing your child crucified for your faith, in front of you, because you would not deny Jesus—or the pain of daily missing your murdered husband, a minister of the gospel, while you raise your children alone—or the brother in North Korea, whose body is broken open from horrid medical experiments, is sitting in his own feces and had to kill and eat a rat last night (raw), just to keep from starving. Now consider the mental pressure on them to give up and check out, yet we hear their stories of holding fast to the faith and hope in Christ to be with them and come for them. That testifies of God’s grace.

      Dear brother we ought to be very careful in declaring Christian suicide victims are in heaven, in a culture where depressed Christian’s don’t need and excuse to their lives. We need to be focused on assisting the brethren to hold to our first faith and hope, enduring to the end of our lives as God ordains. Arguing it may be possible for the justified to be in heaven, after committing suicide, is a hypothesis, that can’t be scripturally proven. What a sad day indeed if some Christian killed themselves based on the argument of a possibility, when we know those enduring in faith till the end, have the rock solid word of God as their guarantee.