Question: I have a Christian friend who battles with mental illness. She, at times, is suicidal and has attempted suicide several times. My question is, “If one commits suicide will they be forgiven and still go to heaven? Are there any unforgivable sins?”
Answer: It is wonderful that your friend has someone like you to support her during her battles with mental illness. I trust she is also receiving counsel from one trained to deal with the suicidal behaviors you say she exhibits. As her friend, it will be important for you to alert someone who can intervene should it seem she is likely to harm herself in any way.
As to your question about suicide or any other sin that could be unforgivable, here are some thoughts. First, if your friend is a Christian, meaning she has a personal relationship with Christ believing in His death on the cross as payment for all of her sins (past, present, future), the simple answer is, “No.” No sin escapes the full payment that Christ made on the cross for her. His atonement on the cross was complete and a once-for-all-time event (Hebrews 9:25-28; 10:10; I Peter 3:18). No matter how evil our sins, there is pardon for them (I John 1:9). The unpardonable sin is actually an issue of a person so hardening his/her heart toward the truth of the Gospel that this person dies in unbelief. So, as far as your friend is concerned, if she is a Christian, there is nothing that can separate her from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39)…not even suicide.
Additionally, there are some other important, sobering aspects to consider regarding this subject. Suicide is a sign of hopelessness, which from a Christian perspective leaves God out of the picture. Hope should be a quality in the life of every growing Christian and should be strongest during times of suffering.
Another major concern for Christians is the belief that God is the source of life to begin with. If we believe that, then who are we to end prematurely what God has given us? We usually think of marriage when we read, “What God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6, NIV). But if we believe that God gives us life just as He breathed the breath of life into Adam, then we dare not take the initiative to separate ourselves from that life flow. We must come to see that essentially any problem, given a month or a year or some amount of time, is capable of being solved.
From a purely spiritual perspective, death isn’t something we should fear. In a particularly honest moment, the Apostle Paul even confessed that he had given the matter some thought: “I’m torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, but it is better for you that I live” (Philippians 1:23-24). This wasn’t a consideration of suicide, but of the value of death over life.
Perhaps Paul’s explanation provides the best possible anti-suicide logic. As human beings, and particularly as believers, we have an obligation to look beyond our own feelings and concerns. We see in the aftermath of suicide what a toll it takes on the friends and loved ones who remain. Suicide is perhaps the ultimate act of selfishness. People who take their own lives rob their families and friends of potential years of growth and affection.
To be sure, everyone’s life contains a fair amount of suffering. In some cases, the amount of suffering is definitely unfair. Yet in the context of eternity, life, as well as suffering, is short.
Like Job, we cry out in confusion and disappointment. Like Job, the best human advice we receive might seem to be, “Curse God and die!” Like Job, we may be unaware that God sees our every injustice and hears our every cry, because all we feel is pain and frustration. And like Job, if we can persevere through the trials, God will eventually restore a sense of stability to life and reward our faithfulness.