Ep. 437 A Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness and Suicide?
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Shows Main Idea – What is the relationship between mental illness and suicide? Is that the best way to ask my question? If not, how would you frame the problem of a person who commits suicide? What does the Bible say? I deal with many desperate people who are Christian and non-Christian, and the normalization of suicide over the past few years has created not just an interest in self-harm but an acceptable solution to commit suicide. What are your thoughts? –Supporting Member
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The starting point to answer a question like this is to determine your presupposition (belief system) and worldview (interpretive filter) regarding mental illness and suicide. Full Disclosure: I come from a sufficiency of Scripture presupposition and worldview.
- Presupposition: I believe God’s Word has all we need for life and godliness.
- Worldview: I believe the Bible provides the proper filter for interpreting data.
Therefore, I would not use the culture’s mental illness label to determine the real problem or solution. I’m not suggesting a person cannot have an organic problem, but I would not label it the way the culture does. Mental illness has a narrow interpretative pathway that typically involves medication, a lifetime prognosis, and drug habituation. My starting point, interpretive filter, labels, and definitions have biblio-centric flavors. For example,
- How is fallenness connected to or contributes to suicide?
- How can an organically (physically) and non-organically (spiritually) broken, Adamic person commit suicide?
- How does our birth in Adam connect to suicide?
- How does our rebirth in Christ connect to suicide?
There are many more factors as to why a person commits suicide. The all-inclusive, fully-encompassing term we’re talking about is “total depravity,” a far more desperate commentary on the Adamic damages to our souls than the culturally accepted term, mental illness. We are wasted, and we are wasting away (2 Corinthians 4:16), including the noetic effect of sin; our minds come under the utter ruin of Adamic fallenness.
The Bible Says
With a clearly established presupposition and worldview, you want to wade through the scores of Bible verses and passages that bring our sad state to high-def clarity. Here is a partial list of the Bible’s perspective on our troubled souls, the baggage we carry, the things that happen to us, and the challenges that disturb shalom and contentment—even tempting a person to choose suicide.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36).
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (Romans 1:18).
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21).
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity (Ephesians 4:17-19).
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
When trying to understand why a person commits suicide, you want to investigate all the possibilities the Bible puts forth. Here is a partial list of some global elements that fall under the Bible’s superior and all-sufficient scrutiny. This list is not in order of priority but merely examples of the superiority of God’s Word when trying to understand human fallenness.
- What is their soul capacity? See 1 Thessalonians 5:14, where Paul talks about the fainthearted person. The “small soul” speaks to an individual with a shriveled or shriveling soul, i.e., given to worry, anxiety, guilt, shame, and fear.
- What is their IQ? Is there retardation; are they dumb, average, smart, or belong to Mensa International?
- How have they been educated, and what effect has education and the education environment had on them?
- Is their conscience hard or weak, and how has their conscience been shaped by (1) personal choices and (2) external shaping influences of others? See 1 Timothy 4:2; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.
- Describe their negative spiritual issues like fear, apathy, anger, greed, selfishness, deception, lust, etc.
- Describe their positive spiritual issues like hope, peace, love, security, truth-telling, and thoughts about God, themselves, others, and eternity.
- Have they been regenerated (John 3:7), and what does growing up into Christ look like for them (1 Peter 2:2)?
- Are the infants in Christ or mature believers? Are they immature but should be mature (Hebrews 5:12-14)? What is their spiritual insight?
- What have been their shaping influences—past and current—and the effects of both?
- What were their family dynamics like as a child? What about now?
- What about their physical well-being? How are they engaging the “wasting away” dynamic (2 Corinthians 4:16)?
- What were their past habits (habituation)? (See Galatians 6:1-2.) What are their current ones? Your answer should encompass the spiritual ones (e.g., truth-telling v. deceptions) and physical ones (e.g., smoking v. exercise or eating well).
- What has been the effect of a parent on them as a child (Ephesians 6:4)?
- What are the effects of their current relationships (Ephesians 4:21; Romans 12:14-21)? Describe these influences.
- What have been the cultural influences, past and present? E.g., part of the world and primary shaping generation.
- What have been the effects of common grace on them, i.e., poverty/affluence, access to the medical community, education opportunities, and vocational possibilities?
The Bible is the best assessment tool we have to understand humanity. God has given believers a high privilege to access it, plus the Spirit of God illuminates us in the context of competent biblio-centric communities to understand the things wrong with us, including suicidal ideation.
Call to Action
- Why is mental illness too narrow of a reason a person kills themself?
- What do you think about the Bible’s expansive data that helps you understand the human condition?
- What is your presupposition for determining how to live well? Why do you believe what you do?
- What is your worldview for determining how to live well? Why do you believe what you do?
- In what way do you need to mature in understanding the human condition and bringing transformative answers?
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Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).