“I assure you: When you [Peter] were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!” (John 21:18-19 HCSB)
When we think of glorifying God what kind of things come to mind?
- Someone speaking great things about the works of God
- Someone singing a beautiful song
- Someone performing a charitable act
- Someone dying?
Yes, in life we glorify God in many ways. Perhaps the most powerful way is in the things we say in do in the last moments of life. Peter in the last moments of his life would indeed glorify God. In old age Peter was tied to a cross and had his hands stretched out (cf. 1 Clement 5:4; 6:1; Eusebius The Ecclesiastical History 2. 25).
How did his death bring glory to God? It affirmed the truth of the message he had been proclaiming. Had Peter, when the chips were down and the stakes were high, recanted his faith so that he could live; no one would have blamed him. But, it would have said something about the truth of the message he had spent his life proclaiming.
If Peter really believed what Jesus taught when he said “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” (John 11:25 HCSB) then why try to avoid dying? Why recant your faith if this is really true? The fact that Peter did not seek to avoid death but rather was crucified upside down meant that he held to this belief to the very last. This testimony is powerful, profound and glorifying to God.
Suicide and Suffering
As a Christian I agree with the 1647 Westminster Confession when it says “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31 HCSB)
Paul reminds us that the great purpose of our life is to bring glory to God. In everything we do, our lives speaks volumes about what we believe. The old saying that actions speak louder than words is another way of saying this. They are louder because they are more difficult to fake. Hypocritical actions are, in time, the surest way to know a hypocritical heart.
Like it or not, my life speaks a message and one day my death will also speak a message. The actions of my life and the actions of my death will speak more loudly than the words I write here. What will the message of my death be? Will it be glorifying to God or will it be the act of a defeated and depressed man who couldn’t find the strength to go on?
Previously I wrote in a very desperate moment of struggle that I would prefer to die than to continue living in this suffering. Though writing this in the very public internet is difficult for others to hear I’m glad that people in scripture felt comfortable enough to reveal that they too faced this struggle.
Some people in Scripture felt deep despair in life. Solomon, in his pursuit of pleasure, reached the point where he “hated life” (Ecclesiastes 2:17). Elijah was fearful and depressed and yearned for death (1 Kings 19:4). Jonah was so angry at God that he wished to die (Jonah 4:8). Even the apostle Paul and his missionary companions at one point “were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
I am firmly convinced that suicide is wrong and that I must not take my life because it would mean that the last act of my life rather than glorifying God would cast doubt on the very message that I treasure so deeply. Like Peter, I want my death to glorify God. I want the last days of my life on earth to be a testament to the grace of God to sustain me in spite of my pain. I want my endurance to the end to confirm the faith that I cling to and testify to its truthfulness. Perhaps, like Peter, God has given me an opportunity to make a great statement in my death and I must not interfere with his purpose in one final act of rebellion.
Unless we are taken suddenly, every last one of us will one day face this kind of suffering; a body failing and withering before our very eyes. In this season of life all pretense falls away. What will be revealed then?
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4 HCSB)
God in his gracious mercy has allowed me to experience a trial of suffering that produces endurance and endurance must do the work that will make me mature and complete. This maturity is eternal and far more important than my temporal comfort.
Every day my life is telling a story. Every day it speaks volumes and one day it will speak of the death of one of God’s beloved saints. I pray that the message it speaks that day is one that brings Him glory.