The Sovereignty of God in Suicide

(If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Suicide Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States; please call 988.)

Dear precious widow of suicide,

I am very sorry for the death of your husband. I am deeply grieved with you over the choice your husband made to take his own life. For many, you were blind-sided and caught completely off-guard, unaware of the deep turmoil your husband faced bringing him to make this painful choice. For others, you fought this spiritual battle with your husband almost daily, and now the fight for him is over and a new and difficult journey begins for you.

A myriad of questions needing biblical answers tormented me for years. Why didn’t I respond differently to his cries? Why did my husband believe the lies? Why didn’t God answer our prayers? Surrendering to the truth that God is sovereign eventually became my resting place. By faith, I continued to trust that God is good, loving, kind, wise, and all-knowing, even in the midst of this unthinkable act.

It is easy to accept the fact that we had nothing to do with our own birth and existence – we did nothing to create ourselves, and here we are experiencing life in the world today. The Bible also confirms that death is in God’s hands: 

“The LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:6). 

“No man has authority to restrain the wind with the wind, or authority over the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8). 

But what happens when man intervenes and takes his own life? Is God in control of this as well? Suicide and the resulting devastation are so painful and tragic that they can seem incompatible with God’s sovereignty. Bereft family and friends are left asking themselves, “If God is sovereign and good, how could he let something like this happen?”

There is a good chance that until you experienced extreme pain and suffering in life, you did not think much about the sovereignty of God. Most of us do not until God’s plan interrupts or disappoints ours. Even though we declare God to be God with our mouths, in our hearts, we often struggle with the fact that God is God and we are not. Books have been written on the sovereignty of God, covering a variety of topics – disease, natural disasters, evil, and man’s choice. For the one impacted by the loss of a loved one to suicide, the sovereignty of God over and in their choice is generally a subject to avoid. God’s sovereignty can become a wall that will push us away from God or a safe haven we run to when nothing else makes sense. 

Here are 4 scriptural truths that help with the understanding and acceptance of God’s sovereignty:

  1. God ordains physical death. We have to come to terms with that. Death is the just consequence of mankind’s sin against God. Every day, we deserve death for our sin against God, and in his long-suffering mercy, God patiently puts off the day of our death. Death is more than something God allows – it is part of His curse on the world because of mankind’s rebellion against him. Death is experienced through natural means, a consequence of poor choices, and even through Satan, who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy.”  The hope for believers is that God, not the devil, is sovereign over death. Jesus showcased that in his resurrection. Jesus came so that His people would have abundant life; death no longer has dominion over him, and death is the last enemy He will finally destroy when He comes again. 
  2. We may not always understand the mind of God. Joseph’s story is one of mystery when we read that he suffered for two decades while God was at work: “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive’” (Genesis 50:19-20). Over and over in scripture, God reminds us that He is in control and we are not, and His ways are higher than ours:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

  1. Because of the fallen nature of man, Satan is allowed access to our lives. In the story of Job, Scripture tells us that Satan asked permission from God to attack Job, and God granted his request. The response of Job is what offers the most encouragement and comfort in light of God sovereignly allowing Satan to intervene, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

Much like the story of Job, God sometimes allows Satan to tempt and fight against His people. Take Peter in the book of Luke, for example: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31). It is encouraging to note two purposes in this suffering: Jesus Christ prays for the strengthening of our faith in the midst of Satan’s attacks, and God will use our trials to transform and sanctify us to the likeness of His Son, and to later give us the opportunity to strengthen and comfort others (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

  1. We live in a broken world.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:20-23).

May you feel the presence of God as you wrestle through the subject of life and death under the sovereign hand of God.

You may never understand the mystery of God’s sovereignty in death but you can be confident that God is with you in the valley of the shadow of death.