Letter to a Christian Experiencing Great Suffering and Tempted Towards Suicide

Following is a modified version of my letter to someone who was experiencing intense physical pain and contemplated suicide. I share it because, though we are a small ministry without the capacity to give ongoing counsel, no doubt others may find themselves tempted to end their life and need to find hope in Jesus, or know someone who faces a similar struggle.

My heart broke for you as I read about your situation. Life can be incredibly hard, and while my life has never been as hard as yours, I have sometimes dealt with prolonged depression. I have faced many difficulties, including losing many people close to me—the hardest being my precious wife dying of cancer, over a period of four years.

I have friends who have been through very tough situations—some, I would say, perhaps comparable to your own, though different in details, since no two people are the same. And hard as it may be to believe, I have spent time with people whose difficulties are harder than yours—though, of course, that is of little comfort to you, because your sufferings are severe and daunting to you.

You Are Not Alone

Certainly, you are not alone in your struggles. Jesus bears the permanent marks on His hands and feet that demonstrate a transcendent pain and agony He experienced for you and for me. Hebrews says Jesus sympathizes with us because He has been through our deepest trials and understands us as we face them. And it is also true that God’s people throughout the ages have gone through terrible suffering, and can fully relate to the kinds of adversity and pain you are facing. In a way that doesn’t make it any easier, but I hope it does make you feel less alone.

As you know, there are no easy answers, and anyone who attempts to give you an easy answer immediately loses credibility. I certainly have not liked it when someone tries that with me, like asking, “Are you over your grief about Nanci yet?” I will never be over my grief about Nanci until I am with Jesus.

My pastor friend got up the day after Thanksgiving a few years ago, went to his young adult son’s room and found him dead from a drug overdose. Three months later, someone at church said, “I hope you’ve gotten past the grief, and you are OK again.” Sometimes people mean well, but just don’t realize what they are saying.

Suicide Is a Temptation from Satan

As hard as daily life is for you, I cannot stress emphatically enough the importance of saying no to the temptation to take your life. You said that yourself, and you have been saying no to the temptation, and I commend you for that and encourage you to recommit yourself to saying no. Anytime you hear a voice or feel an inclination towards suicide, I can say with absolute certainty it is the devil talking. 

Satan hates you as God’s image bearer and wants nothing more than for you to end your life. He would love to kill God in effigy by killing you. God is the giver of life, and God calls us to a more fulfilled life, even when it is filled with difficulty, but Satan is the “liar and murder from the beginning.” That’s what Jesus called him. And he uses his lies as the logic that prompts people to kill themselves, or to kill others. 

I would encourage you to read John 8. Below are the words of Jesus in verses 44 and 45 from the NIV. He was speaking to the Pharisees, and He would've worded it differently if He were talking to someone tempted to commit suicide, but my point in sharing it is the truth Jesus is pointing out. Satan is the life-hating deceiver, and the hater of human welfare:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

I have seen numbers of times where a person has taken his or her life, and their family and friends have been shattered by it. A close friend of mine took his life seven years ago, and no member of his family, including his wife and children and parents, have gotten over it. Though I don't know you, I guarantee you have family and friends who would be devastated and suffer for the rest of their lives. Count the cost in advance and realize that suicide is a terrible thing to do to the others around you. I’m asking you to call upon Jesus not only to value your own life, but to value the lives of others and to love them by not taking your life.

To put it bluntly, while the pain that would cause me to want to take my life is imaginable to me, I believe that suicide is a very selfish and hurtful thing to do. I know that may sound like I'm heaping guilt on you for having those feelings, and that is not my intention; but I think anyone should rightly feel that if they gave into the temptation to take their own lives, they would both be disobeying God and doing great harm to others. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

You have obviously thought a lot about suicide. Remove anything from your house that would make it easier to follow through. In moments of strength, we should always make choices that will serve us and serve God well in moments of weakness. Many people have refrained from succumbing to the temptation to take their life simply because the means was not readily at hand when they were determined to do so.

If the black and white reality of seeing suicide as a sin, and as Satan's plan for your life not God's, could help you say no to that temptation, that’s wonderful. Virtually any reason not to take your life is a good reason. (For immediate help, contact https://www.christiansncrisis.com, https://samaritanshope.org, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- TALK [8255], or text 741741 for crisis texting.)

Trust the Giver of Life

God is your creator and the giver of your life, and He has helped and rescued countless millions of His people throughout the ages who were in dire situations. God wants you to continue to live in this world, and I am optimistic that with the right kind of input, you can be helped and experience hope again.

I hope I don't sound harsh as I talk about suicide. But on the “front side” of temptation, we must put the focus where Scripture does—on the love of God and the fear of God, both of which should act in concert to motivate us to holy obedience. I know that if my friend who took his life had been thinking clearly and had been able to anticipate the devastation to every member of his family and to so many of his friends, including me, he never would have done it. God has put each of us in a unique place in life, and our deepest longing should be to finish well. When I am tempted to sin, I count the cost and think of the effect that it would have not only on my Lord whom I love, but also on myself and on my family and friends and church and others.

If it sounds like I’m going over the top in beseeching you not to take your life, it is because I was with my friend only three days before he took his life. I did not know he had bought a gun and had those intentions, but we did talk about his depression. I have always regretted that I didn’t perceive what was going on inside him, and I vowed I would never turn away when I heard someone express depression and despair, and I certainly would pursue them when they mentioned the possibility of suicide. Hence, my determination to share all this with you.

Got Questions is an excellent resource, and this is a short video from them on suicide. Now, I fully realize that when he quotes verse after verse, it may seem like he is giving a canned or superficial formula that does not fully take into consideration the depth of your despair. But I would encourage you to choose not to think of it that way, but to see those scriptures he is quoting as not just the word of God in general, but the word of God to you in particular.

Here is something I wrote about hope, and it isn’t simply about the hope that awaits us after we die, but about hope here and now in this life, based on the promises of God, that will be fully realized after we die. Our belief in and confidence in what awaits us after death should never cause us to do something to bring about our deaths sooner.

I have dealt with depression periodically in my life, and again I’m not suggesting my situation in life has been as bad as yours—it hasn’t—but it’s been bad enough to get my attention. Charles Spurgeon, the famous London preacher of the 19th century, had terrible physical ailments and some horrific experiences that contributed to ongoing depression. While I was going through a season of depression, I wrote several blogs drawing from Spurgeon’s experience and my own, as well as from Scripture. I hope these might be helpful.

Sometimes God delivers us from suffering, and other times He sustains us through suffering. Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes He calms the heart. Both are acts of grace, and both should prompt us to praise Him. I believe God has not given up on you, and will not give up on you, so please don’t give up on Him or on yourself.

Words of Hope

This is nothing new, I’m sure, but I would nonetheless encourage you to go to God’s Word: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Certainly, I would also encourage you to open up to a Christ-centered, biblically-grounded pastor at your church, as well as a biblically-grounded counselor. Perhaps you have tried this somewhere, and it hasn’t worked—if it didn’t, go somewhere else and try again. You really need the shepherding help of a solid pastor as well as other counselors, or physicians, or whoever can best help you move forward and experience increasing hope. You made clear that you have tried many things, but I am saying don’t give up trying.

You say you need a miracle—well, God specializes in miracles. You’re still in the middle of your story—trust that He can be working out a miracle even though you have not yet seen it. (I’ve written here about how God’s forgiveness and work in our lives is a great miracle, albeit invisible to us, and therefore one we often overlook.)

Here are some Scriptures to ponder:

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). [I know it already feels more than “a little while,” but I pray you’ll take these words to heart.]

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7).

“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 23:18).

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5–6).

Your brother, 

Randy Alcorn

From EPM: In If God Is Good, which deals with the problem of evil and suffering, Randy tells many stories of people he interviewed while writing the book. It is full of Scripture, and it also shares real-life situations in which God has shown His grace to His people in the midst of terrible trials. (He has smaller books on the same subject, including the devotional 90 Days of God’s Goodness.)

Photo: Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries