Pastors and Suicide (I Tim 4:12)

In the past few days, I have heard of a pastor or two that has committed suicide. I personally have seen a good number of these incidents occur over my lifetime. The stories are from pastors of all denominations and walks of life. It is heartbreaking. Men that claimed to be close to God, and examples of Christian living, taking the selfish way out: leaving behind a wake of sadness, loss, and many unanswered questions.

As a pastor myself, I get it. Pastoring is hard work. It may not require much physically, but is very taxing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Just preaching takes it out of a man (not to mention the counseling, discipleship, and other ministries). In addition, some pastors have to work a second job, just to make ends meet. In addition, they have a family to take care of. In addition, the world, flesh, and Devil fight them often (if not daily). As a result, many pastors fight depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other problems. I mean, personally, I get it.

However, as a pastor, as much as I get it, there is no excuse for a pastor committing suicide. None.

Suicide is a sin. It is not the unpardonable sin (as some groups suggest), but a sin nonetheless. It is borne of selfishness, which is rooted in pride. It is taking one’s very existence on this earth into our own hands, instead of trusting in Christ. It is borne of doubt, depression, and despair, not faith. Suicide is a sin.

There is no excuse for a pastor taking his own life. He is supposed to be the example of spirituality and godliness to the flock of God. Consider what Paul says to Timothy about such (I Tim 4:12):

1.) If the pastor knows his Bible doctrine, he will understand that killing oneself is never God’s will.

2.) If the pastor cares about having a good testimony, he would never consider killing himself.

3.) If the pastor is the example of godly love, he would never want to kill himself: direly hurting his family, friends, and church.

4.) If the pastor is filled with the Spirit, he would not commit suicide, or long entertain that line of thinking.

5.) If the pastor is a man of faith (looking unto Jesus and trusting in His Word), he would not long fall into the pit of doubt and despair, unto suicide.

6.) If the pastor desires to be a pure man, he would not want to taint his name, or the name of his God through suicide.

People would naturally say, “What then is a pastor to do, to avoid the dangers of suicide?” His life is hard, emotional, and very tiring. Naturally, the temptation would come to some, from time to time. The answer is as simple and difficult as it has always been: Maintain a close walk with God.

1.) Know that you are God’s child. The assumption of, “He is a minister, so he must be saved,” is a poor assumption of our day. No one can assume salvation. Being in the ministry does not make one to be saved from sin. We must solidify our own salvation through putting our faith in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ alone. We must be secure in our salvation: understanding that we are made to be God’s children and part of Christ’s flock through the Lord Jesus, and He has sealed us with His Spirit. John, Romans, and I John outline the doctrines of Jesus Christ, Salvation, and Eternal Security especially well. If the pastor does not know that he is saved, then how can he preach the Gospel to others? In addition, how can and why would he follow Christ, to learn His Word?

2.) Study your Bible for application every day. This is especially difficult for ministers, but so much more necessary. We are on the spiritual front lines (if anyone is). This means that Satan is going to target you first. However, if we are in the Word, we are abiding in Christ, and, thence, following our Shepherd. He provides, protects, and guides His sheep perfectly.

3.) Maintain a vigilant prayer life. The Christian that communicates regularly with their Father will not fall away from Him. Instead, they will find that, through the Word and Prayer, God’s grace is always sufficient. It’s not the length of praying that matters, but the fact that we pray.

4.) Find some good friends to vent on, counsel with, and pray with. The best person is your wife. She is to be your teammate and helper in the ministry. You can share the burdens together, and watch God work. However, if, for some reason, that does not work, actively seek out godly friends. For a pastor, the church family does not usually work. Laypeople do not understand the burden of the ministry. They just don’t. Find a godly pastor to pray with, be sharpened by, and encouraged through. They exist.

Seriously, if no one exists for you. I am available. Don’t go it alone: without God, without friends. Get yourself some help. There is no shame in admitting that the ministry is hard, the flesh tempts, the Devil fights, and you are spent. There is no shame. However, there is much shame in taking the burden upon yourself, suffering doubt, depression, and despair all on your own, alienating your friends and family, and then, finally, taking your own life one day. There is much shame in that.

5.) Maybe get out of the ministry! It is not for everyone. There are many denomination-called, glory-seeking, money-hungry, mom & dad-called, pastor-sent ministers. I am not saying that anyone on this sub is one of these people! I am just saying that you need to secure your calling through Scripture & God’s will (which never conflicts w/the Word). If you can do something else in this world and be satisfied with it, then please do it! There is no shame in doing God’s will! Some of the people that kill themselves, no doubt, were never called to the ministry. It overcame them, was too much for them, and they refused to get out, for one reason or another.

If you suffer, like many ministers do, I implore you, please get help! Do not pridefully think that you can carry the burden of the ministry yourself. You cannot! Get in the Word. Talk to God often in prayer. He will help you! Also, again, I am always here (and am sure that several other good people on this thread are too), to lend a sympathetic ear.

Hope that this is a help in some way.