Ask me anything; you guys have laid out a lot that is humbling, hard and good for us to answer. There are some very deep questions that I know are dear to your hearts. So, as I answer these few questions, I’m going to be real with you and open up about some things I have a hard time talking about.
1. How do you offer hope to someone who loses a loved one that might not have accepted Christ as savior?
Losing the people that we love sucks! Sorry, I was trying to think of a better way to say that but yeah it does. I have unfortunately experienced a lot of loss in my life for only being 33. I have lost grandparents, an uncle that was like a second dad to me, many classmates (yes, its so many that I have lost count, somewhere in the teens), two childhood friends, a friend that I met just after college and my momma. Through all of this, there have been times where I knew without a doubt they are in heaven rejoicing but there was the other side of not knowing if they were in heaven or being sure they were not. It is a struggle to make sense of what could have been done differently for them to be in heaven without a shadow of doubt.
A few years ago, I lost a very good friend of mine. We had been friends since the 5th grade and all through school. We did everything together. Once we became adults, the friendship continued but something changed. She was diabetic since the 6th grade but as an adult she started not taking care of herself like she needed to. Fast-forward to her having to little girls and still not taking care of her body like she should. I could see that she was slowly killing herself. I had one of the hardest talks with her. I told her that I was there when she was ready for help but that I could not stand by and watch her do this to herself. I wanted so badly for her to see that she was going to end up dead and her babies would have no mother. I think by the time she realized that she needed to change, her body was already so far gone that it could not come back from all the lack of nutrition.
The problem is that I was so focused on talking to her about her health and eating right, that I never talked to her about my wonderful savior. I never told her about that peace and comfort that she could have in Him and not in the world she was trying so hard to control. The day she died, I got that phone call that we all hate to get. I grieved harder than I ever have (and this was after losing my mom) because I didn’t know if she went to heaven. I didn’t know if she had ever given her life to the Lord.
God brought me to my knees over the next couple of days. I learned a hard lesson. I can never allow myself to not share what God has to offer. There was so much guilt that I had for a long time after that. I know God has forgiven me for that but I was hard on myself for a while.
The day of her funeral her uncle got up to speak about her life but he shared one of the most wonderful things. The night that she died he was at her bedside and shared with her about Jesus’ love and peace that He had to offer her. She said “I want that how do I get it?”
I know this story ends with a happy ending but the lesson that has to be taken away is that you have to share with your friends and loved ones, no matter how hard that is, about God. Just a few months after she passed away I had another good friend of mine take her life. In the months leading up to her ending her own life, she and I had many conversations about God, His love, His peace and how great His gift is to us. I truly believe that she did ask Jesus to forgive her. I just don’t know that she was able to forgive herself for choices she had made in the last year of her life. Ultimately, the burden she put on herself became too much. She never learned how to give it all to God and let go. The day she died I was sad. It was so hard to hear what she had done but I had peace in God.
There is no right thing to say to someone that has lost a love one that you don’t believe had given his or her life to God. There is no magic phrase or scripture that is going to take the pain away. I do believe that, in the right timing, you can talk about the fact that the only comfort is in God’s word, sharing with others about Jesus and taking this as a lesson to never let someone pass without at least hearing your love for God. The hope is in God alone!
Job 6:8 “Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for,
2. After God has forgiven me, how do I forgive myself?
I have struggled with forgiveness. I didn’t lead a very pretty life in high school and college at all. There are things that I wish I could go back and change. But God doesn’t ask for us to come to Him all cleaned up and perfect with “our life together”. He wants us the way we are, a mess, broken, unholy and unclean because cleaning us up is His job. He wants to make us whole, clean and perfect through Christ.
We like to have control. Even after we have asked Christ to save us, we want to hold onto things because we can think “I can fix that part” or “God’s too busy to have to deal with this part so I will take care of that too”.
The one thing that got me to realize that I could not fix my problems and that I needed to forgive myself was waking up every morning in prayer. I would tell God and myself that I am no longer that person. I am better than that. God forgave me and I forgive myself. I know this sounds crazy but saying those words out loud helped me to believe in myself and forgive myself over time. The same was true for me when it came time to forgive someone that hurt me very deeply.
What you put out there whole-heartedly you will get back. God will give you that peace and security that you need to forgive. I still have times in my life where I have to say this prayer out loud to come to forgiveness for myself because the world doesn’t stop throwing things at me. God is so much bigger and better than all of the world’s problems. We have to have faith He will overcome it all.
Proverbs 4:25-27 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.