When someone you love and care about takes their own life ...
… it is one of the most traumatic and disorienting times you can face. The questions are seemingly endless and unanswerable. The what ifs become breeding grounds for regret, guilt and self-accusation. The recent death of Isaac Hunter has brought all of that and more to the forefront of life at Northland and Summit churches here in Orlando. As a son of Northland's pastor and a founder of Summit Church, Isaac was known and loved by countless people. Being followers of Christ does not eliminate the grieving we do in times like this, but as Paul says, we do not grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We grieve in the light of the resurrection promised in Christ.
One question that inevitably comes up in a time like this has to do with the state of a person’s soul. It is understandable that people wonder, “Can you still go to heaven if you take your own life?” Let me say clearly and without equivocation that the answer is yes. The Bible is clear that there is only one sin that is unforgivable. In Mark 3:28-29, Jesus says this:
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
His point is clear: Anything we do is forgivable with the exception of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Without getting too deep into what that is, the context of the passage shows that it includes an ongoing denial of the work of the Holy Spirit and saying that such work is actually of the Devil, when you know full well it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Suicide is not even remotely related to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. So the first foundational principle for us to understand is that any action we commit, even suicide, is forgivable. That does not mean it is without ramifications …
The devastation left in the wake of a suicide is mind-numbing. Forgiveness of an action should never be a justification ahead of time for doing something that is wrong and will inflict pain on those left to deal with the wreckage.
People also ask, "How can you be forgiven if you are dead and unable to ask God to forgive you?" The question assumes that forgiveness comes only after we ask God for it. This is true when you first come into a saving relationship of faith in Christ. Repentance, confession of sin and placing one's trust in Christ for salvation is required for salvation and forgiveness. The mistake people often make is that in order to keep your salvation, or in the least to be forgiven, you must repent and confess and ask forgiveness every time you sin. Although it is extremely important for a follower of Christ to repent of sin and turn back to Christ, it does not cancel your salvation if you fail to do so. People focus on suicide because of the concern that the person had no chance to repent before standing in front of God. But the same can be said for any other sin one commits and fails to repent and ask forgiveness of before they die.
What if you commit some sin and immediately step in front of a bus and are killed before having a chance to repent and ask forgiveness? Are you going to be condemned for all time because of a tragedy of timing? Not according to the Bible. Once you come to saving faith in Christ, you are forgiven. You are forgiven of your past, present and future. Jesus covers you and fills you with His righteousness. That means when the Father looks on you, He sees not your unworthiness and sin, but rather He sees your relationship with the Son and the goodness and holiness of the Son that is applied to you.
Your entrance into heaven is not determined by the things you do or do not do. Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." In other words, you cannot take credit for your salvation based on what you have done, and you cannot negate your salvation either. Once you are in Christ, because of the gift of faith He has given you, you will always be in Christ. He promises to bring that to completion and promises to never leave or forsake you … ever! So rest assured that a follower of Jesus who in a time of pain ends up taking their own physical life has not lost their eternal life. That rests in that hands of a strong and loving Savior who promised to never let them go.
Still, some will question how a person who follows Jesus could get to the place of despair in which they take their own life. Following Christ is no guarantee that we will never face painful, debilitating times in life. It is no guarantee that we will be free of all illness, physical or mental. It is no guarantee that we will never feel hopeless. What following Christ does do is give us a relationship and tools to overcome such hurdles. But we are not always successful. We could just as easily ask, “How does a person who follows Jesus commit any kind of sin?” On one level it makes no sense that if you have experienced the love and grace of God, that you would ever do anything to displease Him. Yet we all do! It is the consequence of living in a world that is still fallen, caught in sin, awaiting the final redemption and restoration of all things. It is the consequence of now and not yet. We live in Christ now, but we do not yet have the benefit of the fullness of that relationship. The broken world is still broken. So we look to the promised day of restoration when a New Heaven and a New Earth will become one, and we will walk in the full light of God's grace and mercy and love. It is a promised time of no more tears, no more sorrow, only joy in the Lord.
Lord, we long for that day. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.
By Dr. Dan Lacich
Pastor for Distributed Sites
Northland, A Church Distributed
I don’t call myself a man of God. I call myself a simple follower of Jesus Christ doing the best he can to live by faith under the grace and mercy of God. As to your accusation that I am telling people it is okay to sin, you are completely misreading the post. What I am saying is that God forgives sin. Surely you believe that don’t you? Believing in forgiveness and assuring people that they can be forgiven does not condone sin. If you have some biblical response to what I have said then I will gladly respond to that and if I am shown from scripture that I am wrong I will gladly change my position. However, I am compelled to follow the Bible and trust Jesus when He says that ALL sins, except blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can be forgiven. If Jesus is willing to forgive all those sins, who am I to not do so or to teach otherwise.
why are you telling everyone that it’s ok to SIN. and you call yourself a man of god?
Gone, but not forgotten. We’ll all miss you, but see you again soon.
Gone, but not forgotten. We’ll all miss you, but see you again soon Isaac.
I lost a friend last year. He was only 22. I have battled depression myself on and off since I was 13. It’s not easy to seek out help especially for guys. I can tell you what your feeling and thinking doesn’t make you crazy. Your brain is just not functioning as it should and I urge you to seek help no matter who it may be. There’s a few resources for those who may know someone or need it themselves: 1-800-273-8255 and imalive.org there is also an organization called American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that holds local walks around the state throughout the year. There will be one February 1st if anyone wanted to start a team in memory of Isaac. Continuing my prayers to the hunters and anyone here who may have lost someone or is struggling with addiction or depression. Hang in there. It will get better!
Thank you For this explanation and Bible references, you it much made easier to explain to others. My deepest sympathy to Pastor Hunter, Becky, the children and brothers of Isaac, and to all the Hunter family. My prayers are with you all. I so wish I would have been able to attend the service today but I was there in my heart. Hugs to all of you and to the Northland staff, I love my church, you all have done a wonderful job with this terrible tragedy.
I have cried with many families in my spirit. We are only passing through this is not the end all. This is very well-written we all need to show mercy, compassion, forgiveness, Jesus did. His message was very clear he loved everyone. I have worked with families in the Funeral Industry in the services. As a human being we all have questions? Only Jesus can answer the questions. We all experience a “Suddenly” at one time! Let us pray for this family and all who have experienced loss of a loved one in this manner. As in the article “God will never let us go” even in our deepest darkness he will be the light that shines in us forever.
Thank you for this well written explanation. My heart is broken for this family and any one who has lost a loved one to suicide.
Thank you so much such a beautiful explanation regarding suicide. I was always under the assumption that if a person took his/her like they would spend their like in hell. You opened my eyes and thanks for sharing. There are no words that can express the heartfelt pain felt within for Pastor Joel Becky. My eyes have been opened and your letter was life changing.
Thank you very much, I really needed to know this. Love and prayers to the Hunter family and all those Isaac touched.
Thank you Dr. Lacich. We are praying for the Hunter family and all of you at Northland as well as Summit.
Prayers are ascending for the Hunter family! Some of God’s most effective leaders that brought about the greatest change(s) have lost children (Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela…). This world is not our home! My prayers for the church community and Isaac’s beloved family is that each member will courageously, supernaturally PRESS ON!
Thank you so much and God bless you for this wonderful news. I didn’t know if Isaac got into heaven after taking his own life but I ask God to please show me some how if he did… today I read this….. Hallelujah for God’s conformation and again Thank you Dan, I am at peace with this now!!!
Thank you, Dan, for reminding us all of the salvation and mercy of Jesus Christ. We all loved Isaac and will miss him and the gift he was to this community. The only solace is in knowing that he now fully resides in the loving arms of our Father. We will continue to pray for Pastor Joel and his family. And, we will always remember Isaac for his goodness and for his love for Jesus. He truly was a gift to us all on many levels.
When I think of Isaac, I see him in the arms of Jesus. There are no answers when a person ( especially such a great man) takes his life. His pain had to have been so deep that his mind was not really his. I do not think anyone can truly understand except God. But we are fighting a war. A real war and it just goes to show that anyone is subject to the powers of darkness. This is such a wake up call to the spiritual battle we face everyday. Isaac dedicated my daughter and was a great friend…he will never be forgotten and he will always be a part of my daughter. I love Isaac and will miss him. I pray for comfort for the entire Hunter family and friends. May peace find you in the difficult time. God Bless.
as a mother of 3 sons my heart hurts for the hunter family….we try to do all we can for our children,to help them through the hard times, yet sometimes its out of our reach..i truly hope you will find comfort in knowing that your son loved the lord and is now in HIS loving arms being comforted by the Comforter himself..peace be with you
My heart goes out to Joel Hunter and his family.Praying for you all. God Bless
Thank you Pastor Dan for the scripture. I KNOW that God is with Joel and Becky and the rest of the family. I just pray that they will feel His presence and lean on him for minute by minute support. We love you Joel & Becky!!! I hope you can feel the love your extended family has for you!!!
May God be with Pastor Joel & his family during this unimaginable time.
My heart goes out to the Hunter family. I lost my mother to suicide 11 years ago and it was so devastating. Thank you Pastor Dan for the reassurance that I will see her some day again in eternity.
Amen, Dan tremendously written and well said.
Thanks so much for those words. Having been through this before with a family member, I totally empathize with all the feelings the family is going through. God bless each of them and bring them the peace that only HE can provide.
What if you commit some sin and immediately step in front of a bus and are killed before having a chance to repent and ask forgiveness? Are you going to be condemned for all time because of a tragedy of timing? Not according to the Bible.
Excellent point made.
Thank you Pastor Dan for caring and reminding us all of God’s grace and what it can accomplish in times of unspeakable grief.
I am so thankful for the community of Northland for their openness. I know healing will come for so many people while their grieve. On 12/10/12, my brother committed suicide so this message is reassuring for all of us broken people.
I have struggled with this issue of not knowing in the past when someone else I knew took his life and struggled now. Thank you for this. My heart is at peace knowing their eternal life is not lost.