.:MY JEHOVAH’S WITNESS BROTHER COMMITTED SUICIDE. WILL JEHOVAH FORGIVE? CAN YOU HELP ME?
“I need help dealing with the death of my Jehovah’s Witness brother who just committed suicide. My brother and I were raised Jehovah’s Witness, but when I and my mother were disfellowshipped, my brother took it real hard as he could no longer be part of our lives. Like so many Witnesses, he tried hard to be perfect and when he wasn’t able to live up to their standards, it literally killed him. He had doubts and questions that he was never allowed to ask as he had been told that this was ‘independent thinking’ and ‘pride.’ So, he buried his thoughts and feelings and constantly strove to perform better, while he secretly suffered from severe depression and an obsessive, compulsive disorder. His marriage to a Jehovah’s Witness had failed and because of the Watchtower policy against remarriage, he could never have kids and was doomed to life alone. Once he tried to start a ‘bible study’ with my son as this would be a way that he could have contact with us, but when an elder told him that he was not ‘spiritually strong enough’ to study with my son, even that was ripped from him. He felt like a failure and had nothing to live for. He left a note telling us that he ‘loved us’ and begging for our forgiveness. He asked us to cremate him and ‘dispose’ of his ashes. He believed as all Witnesses do that suicide is an unforgivable sin, but in his eyes, he was a walking dead person anyway, so why did that matter? My brother is not in a dumpster but in all of our homes. I know it is just ashes, but it’s all I have. How do I begin to build a relationship with God on a personal level and learn to trust religion? Do you think suicide is black and white with Jehovah or do you think my brother could one day find happiness? If I, an imperfect human, can forgive him, why can’t Jehovah who is love? Please help me!”
We are truly sorry to hear of your pain. We can only imagine how much you miss your brother. Your love for him and Jehovah is truly amazing! You asked that if we, imperfect humans, are able to forgive suicide, why can’t Jehovah God who is love forgive? You are right, “God is love.” He loved your brother regardless of the imperfections he had. 1 John 4:7-10 explains:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” **
Because God loved us so much, He sent His Son to die in our place so that we can be forgiven of our sins (John 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:21). When we receive Christ’s forgiveness, God fills our hearts with His love and pours His love out through us into the lives of those around us. We cannot know the depths of the pain your brother experienced that made him feel so hopeless that he felt he must end his life, but one thing we do know. Your brother loved you and everyone around him. By what you tell us of his life, he had a huge heart to please Jehovah. He LOVED Jehovah! He didn’t die because he hated God. Rather, he died because he misunderstood the God of love due to the false teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If your brother had personally placed his trust in the ransom sacrifice that Christ made on his behalf and made Jesus Christ “Lord” of his life (Romans 10:9), the Bible says that all of his sins (including suicide) are covered under the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9; 1 Peter 2:24). It was the Watchtower organization that demanded perfection from him, not Jehovah God Himself!
Our loving God knows your brother’s pain and the love he showed for His Name. David spoke of Jehovah storing up his teardrops that were shed in pain (Psalm 56:8), the nation of Israel and Job contemplated death in their pain (Exodus 16:3; Numbers 14:2; Job 3:11-13), and Jesus is spoken of as our High Priest Who can sympathize with our weaknesses because He was “tempted in all things as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). If Christ was “tempted in all things,” He must have felt the temptation of suicide as well.
CAN SUICIDE BE FORGIVEN?
You asked if suicide is the unpardonable sin. The only unpardonable sin we read of in the Bible is “blasphemy” against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31) which in context is rejecting the conviction of the Holy Spirit about the person and work of Jesus Christ. So, if your brother did not commit that sin, then he did not commit the unpardonable sin when he committed suicide.
Although there are no Scriptures that deal with the subject of suicide in a black and white context, when we consider the commandment “thou shall not kill,” we do recognize that even murderers can be forgiven by God through the blood of Christ, just as the Apostle Paul was forgiven (1 Corinthians 15:9; Acts 7:54-8:3). Consider the example of David who lost his newborn son to death as a penalty for his adultery. He said that his son could not come to him, but that he would go to him (2 Samuel 12:22-23). This seems to imply that David’s son would be resurrected to the same place that David hoped to go. The reason this story is relevant to the topic of suicide and murder is because David essentially caused the death of his son because of his sin, and yet God forgave him because of his “faith” (Romans 4:5-7). So, neither David nor his son had to suffer eternally for this sin. They only had to suffer the consequences of sin here on earth and then look forward to the future resurrection by “faith” in the ransom sacrifice of Christ.
Due to the fact that your brother was involved in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is no way for us to know, this side of eternity, if he prayed to receive Christ. We do not know what transpired between him and Christ in the last remaining moments of his life as he was slipping away into eternity, but one thing we do know; your brother died loving God and your family, and he died asking for forgiveness.
The Watchtower Society confused him about God’s love when it emphasized a man-made standard of righteousness for approval. Your brother was so discouraged he probably thought he was doing Jehovah a favor by taking his life, because he thought that by living, he would contaminate others with his “weak spirituality.” Yet, such thinking is the direct opposite of God’s truth. If the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been acting like true Christians, they would have understood that their treatment of your brother was in direct conflict with Scripture’s command to receive the “weak” brother and encourage him (Romans 14:1; Galatians 6:1-2).
God is all about love and grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet this word, “grace” is completely missing in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation Bible. Your brother didn’t even have a chance to be exposed to the loving God of the Bible who rejoices when we give Him the broken pieces of our lives (Romans 5:8, 10; Ezekiel 36:26-27), so that He can transform us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Just as the potter does when he breaks the clay into pieces in order to form it into the image of His own design (Jeremiah 18:4-6; Isaiah 64:8), so God desires to do His work with the broken pieces of each one of our lives (Colossians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD?
You brought up a great question when you asked: “How do I begin to build a relationship with God on a personal level?” This is the first step one must take before thinking about “trusting religion” again. So, how do you build a relationship with God? You do so, step-by-step. The relationship begins when you approach God by coming to Jesus Christ with the broken pieces of your life (Matthew 9:11-13). It is not about you polishing your own image first before you come to God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Starting a relationship with God is simple and you’ve probably heard it already, but here are the ABC’s of salvation:
A: Admit you are an unworthy sinner (Romans 3:23)
B: Believe in Christ (Acts 16:31)
C: Confess your faith (Romans 10:8-10)
Confessing your sins and believing in Christ for salvation involves praying a prayer of salvation in which you ask Jesus to forgive you for your sins and to be the Lord of your life. Jesus said that we must “come” to him for eternal life (John 5:39-40). So, we must go directly to Him in prayer when we ask for His forgiveness and the gift eternal life. Note the following examples in Scripture on how Jesus is the One we are to go to when we request forgiveness:
“And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, ‘Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”; or to say, “Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins–He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” ’ And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’ ” —Mark 2:5-12
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out… This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”— John 6:37, 39-40
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”—John 10:27-29
For more information on how to begin a relationship with God and a sample prayer of salvation, see the following article on our website:
SALVATION – What is required to have eternal life? (4witness.org)
Next, you grow in your relationship with God by praying and reading the Bible daily. As you study, you will find that many of the assumptions you were taught as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses were wrong and you will have to start all over with just your love for Jehovah and His Word, the Bible. Ask God to send His Holy Spirit to teach you His truth as you read His Scripture (John 14:25-27). Then, read the Bible verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, and take notes. You will begin to see and learn things you have never known before about God and His love for you. It will be a daily adventure for you, and it will give you new hope!
For advice as you begin to read God’s Word and reevaluate what you were taught as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, read the following article:
HOW DO I LEARN TO TRUST RELIGION AGAIN?
Learning to trust religion or a Christian church is a whole other issue. You phrased your question just right by asking about building a RELATIONSHIP with God on a PERSONAL level first. Yes, God wants a personal relationship with us, not a religion with us. It begins with the relationship of knowing and trusting Him. Later, He may call you to fellowship and serve within the “Body of Christ” in a formal church setting. But in the early stages, like where you are in right now, your relationship with God is much like a baby compared to a parent.
We don’t send our infants off to school right away after they are first born, do we? Of course not! We give them time to grow and then at the right age as children (not babies), we send them to school where they are stable enough to handle more complex relationships with some discernment, guidance, and advice from us as they learn deeper things than what they could from us. The same is true with our relationship with God. He doesn’t expect you to run immediately into service until you have taken the time to learn the basics of your new faith in Christ.
“Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”—1 Peter 2:2-3
Spend time studying God’s Word and when you are ready to move into a formal Church setting, look for a church where the Bible is taught verse-by-verse and people love one another without a bunch of rules. Then proceed cautiously, using the guidelines given in the following article on how to find a healthy Christian church and avoid Satan’s deceptions:
Always remember that your relationship with God is to be based completely on the guidance of His Holy Spirit through the reading of His Word. Be careful not to allow any man, religion, pastor or teacher to usurp the role of Christ in your life. Because of your past experience, it may be easy for you to find yourself giving a religious church to much say in your life with the same kind of control that the Watchtower had on you. Be careful not to allow that to happen. Remember that we should never look to men alone to teach us God’s truth or to usurp the role of Christ as our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and the Holy Spirit as our Teacher (John 14:16-17, 26).
“These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”—1 John 2:26-27
For more information on how to evaluate the emotional health of a religious group, see the following article:
We hope that what we shared here has been helpful for you. A lot of people feel a tremendous amount of guilt after going through something like this. We recommend that you find a grief recovery support group or workshop in your area to attend. Also, a Christian pastor or trained counselor can be helpful for providing on-going support therapy. Many pastors in the Calvary Chapel Church affiliation offer Bible-based, one-on-one counseling sessions free of charge. While most pastors are not licensed professionals, they do minister from a Biblical Christian perspective and often have the added advantage of being able to offer a support system through though the local fellowship of Christian believers. While we recommend the Calvary Chapel (www.calvarychapel.com) affiliation, there are other churches that can provide help and support. For a guide on how to find a healthy church in your area, see the following link:
- HOW TO FIND A GOOD CHURCH AND AVOID SATAN’S DECEPTIONS (4witness.org)
** All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
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