Most people will experience a time in life in which death looks very appealing. Whether due to physical pain, disease, emotional struggles, or relational problems, it is easy to become frustrated with this life and wish for something different. But is it okay to "want" to die? What perspective does the Bible give?
I want to die, is that wrong?
The apostle Paul knew Christ and realized a perfect future in heaven awaited him after this life. While under house arrest in Rome, Paul wrote, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again" (Philippians 1:21-26). This life was to be lived for Christ. Until God allowed Him to die, Paul understood that it was better to remain and to live out God's will to serve others. In Galatians 2:20 he wrote something similar: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
Paul's words can be helpful to remember when one has thoughts or feelings of wanting to die. Life on earth has God-ordained purpose. Psalm 139:16 says, "in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Ephesians 2:10 asserts, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Philippians 1:6 says, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Our lives on earth are meaningful to God and He has plans for them, even when we may not understand. Romans 5:3-5 encourages, "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
However, the Bible also offers caution for some cases when people desire to die. An important example is found in the life of Jonah. In Jonah 4, he sat outside the city to await God's judgment upon the people of Nineveh. When it did not happen, Jonah was upset and wanted to die. God then provided a plant for shade, yet the plant soon died. Jonah was so upset that he, again, said it would be better to die. The Lord answered, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:10-11).
In other words, Jonah was more concerned about his personal comfort than in helping to save the lives of thousands of people. God was not pleased with this attitude and challenged Jonah concerning it. In our own lives, we can sometimes find ourselves wanting to die because we only see life from our own personal perspective rather than from God's perspective. Like Jonah, God desires for us to change our attitude in these cases, seeking to honor God and to be a help to other people instead.
Wanting to die is not necessarily wrong. Our world is marred by the impact of sin and, if we are in Christ, we know something far better awaits. We long for God's final redemption of this earth and of our lives. When we come to a time in life where we desire death, that is good reason to examine our hearts and to reaffirm our trust in the Lord. If we want to die because of petty or self-serving reasons, we should repent and ask God to change our hearts. If we want to die because the pain of this life seems overwhelming and too much to bear, we should turn to God and ask Him to equip us to complete whatever work He has planned out for us. We can take our cue from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. "Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here, while I go over there and pray.' And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.' And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will'" (Matthew 26:36-39). Jesus was honest with His Father about not wanting to endure the upcoming suffering planned out. Yet He was also submissive and prayed for God's will to be done.
At times, we may feel that death is better than life. We can bring this to God, ask for His perspective, ask for endurance, and ask that His will be done. God loves us perfectly and we can trust that He is sufficient for all our needs. Jesus promised His disciples, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b).
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