When Someone You Love Dies Without Christ


Two weeks ago I wrote a devotion for people who had lost believing loved ones explaining the bliss of life in heaven. I received a great response in the way of phone calls, texts, and personal visits by so many that were encouraged. It quickly became my most popular blog post to date on the church website. It has since crossed my mind, though, what about people who are grieving loved ones who they believed to be separated from Christ and doomed to eternal torment?
Here are three things I always like to remind people mourning the loss of an unbeliever:
1. God is good. He is working all things out for His glory, and He does not make mistakes. You hurt now, but there will come a day when it will all make sense. In the end, we will see how God turned every heartbreaking event around for His glory and praise. I am not saying that all evil is really good. I am saying that God is able to turn every evil around for good because He is good.
If you have trouble accepting that even hell is ordained by God for His glory, then accept this—He is good. He does not leave us in our mourning, regardless of the eternal standing of the one we mourn. When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:2), He was speaking to all who mourn. Psalm 34:17-18 reads, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Rest assured, if you as His child by faith will turn to Him for comfort, then He will answer in His good time.


2. Following Christ is a personal decision that you cannot make for others even when you want to. You can love them and show them the right way, but you cannot force them to walk the right path. If you are entertaining the idea that you somehow “failed to save them,” don’t. If you feel that you failed to be obedient to share with them, then know that God raised others up to share with them too. Even if you were less than faithful then it is in the past. Jesus does not want you to dwell on it. Keep pressing on to what lies ahead. Keep holding the ground you have gained and gain some more.
Paul’s words to the Philippians are applicable here: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Philippians 3:12-16).


3. You cannot know another person’s heart. You can scarcely know your own heart. You sure can’t know someone else’s. I am barely secure that I am a believer myself. I am reasonably sure that I know some people who are strong believers, but I cannot know for certain. Hence, you will never know for certain, this side of eternity, anyone’s eternal destiny. You’d like to be able to have reasonable assurance, and it is great when you do. But you cannot beat yourself up over uncertainties.

I have known many people who have this hang up about Christianity: “how can a loving God create such a terrible place as hell and send people there?” The real question is, how could a good and just God ever allow any of us into His presence. God has ordained a way for all who will believe to be reconciled to Him through faith in the person and work of His Son. There is no reason that anyone should perish, nor is it God’s will that some do. Heaven or hell is a choice that everyone makes for themselves.