Is suicide the unforgivable sin?
The number one question Dr. Jeremiah Johnston has received in his ministry is regarding suicide and mental health in the Christian life. “Suicide is in a 30-year high in our nation – we’ve never been more connected but we’ve never been as lonely or isolated,” he says.
Suicide has become the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 19, he says. Rather than avoiding the topic, Johnston urges parents, caregivers, and mentors to address it: “Speaking intelligently about suicide to children and teenagers doesn’t cause it to happen; it prevents it.”
While issues on the mental health spectrum vary, most people will either personally deal with a mental health issue or have a close loved one who does. Handling mental health issues is a conundrum for many Christians, but the Bible has much to say about thinking correctly. “It’s a great book on mental health,” Johnston says. Its most important human subjects confess deep struggles, including Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul.
Adding to the personal anguish many people go through are feelings of guilt that they don’t feel better. It helps to remember “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). In dealing with others who suffering, Johnston reminds listeners not to discount the power of their own words and involvement. “Nonexperts are just as important as experts,” he says. Christians would do well to approach suicide with a spirit of humility, an awareness of false teaching, and a remembrance of God’s great love.
More and more believers are beginning to understand the vital nature of the mental health issue, Johnston says. “When God puts a message on your heart, don’t ever take no for an answer. The church can’t be behind the times on this issue,” he emphasizes. “I truly believe this is a word from God. We don’t have to have a spirit of fear to address any subject.”