My Dear Friends,
Twenty years ago my mother died. She had been raised a Roman Catholic in a devout Catholic home. In the years after my conversion, which baffled her (“But surely your baptism washed away your sins”), I was able to speak with her about the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And then she died. Whether she died trusting alone, however simply, in the Saviour, God alone knows. Last week my father died. In the years after my conversion, I found it so very difficult to speak with him about Christ. Whereas my mother’s Catholic background gave her some sense of the importance of “religion”, my father simply “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness” and studiously avoided engaging me in spiritual conversation (though, to my shame, I rarely sought out the opportunity to speak with him of the Lord Jesus). I suppose in some sort of way they were proud of their son; not proud that I had become a Christian, but proud that I had gone to University, married a wonderful wife, and had four lovely (at least to them and to us) children.
Why mention any of this to people (most of you anyway), who never knew my mother or father? For this reason; How are believers to cope when parents, and other loved ones die, without having any clear trust in the Saviour? To die without Christ, is to die eternally, consumed forever (can you even begin to begin to grasp this?) with the unquenchable wrath of a holy God. How then are we to cope emotionally, far less spiritually, with such a thought? I can only share with you the two things that have helped me these past twenty years.
First, God alone knows how anyone dies. The conversion of the thief on the cross at the last minute, reminds us of the astounding grace of God. To all who looked on, here was a man reaping the solemn fruit of a godless life. To God, here was a man finding peace with God, as he was about to expire. God alone knows how anyone dies. I have little doubt, that heaven will be a place of revelation; perhaps many will be there we never expected would be there; and many not there we fully expected to be there.
Second, and for me this was the more consoling: God is a holy and righteous God, who does all things well. When I heard news of my mother’s sudden death, as I drove up to Glasgow from Newmilns, one verse kept impressing itself on my mind and heart: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” All our God does is good and right. He can do nothing that is not perfectly just and righteously good - “Whate’er my God ordains is right.” Surely here we cast our anchors in the midst of life’s perplexities, uncertainties and pains. Our God can be trusted always to do what is right and good - who he is insists on it.
The Lord has been pleased not to excuse his beloved children from the “sufferings of this present time.” He does, however, invite us to rest the weight of all our heart-pains, upon the grace of his blessed, holy and righteous and merciful sovereignty (read Matthew 11:28-30). Without this, life would simply be unbearable. This is why there will be no sorrow or regrets in heaven. All will be there the Lord has destined to be there; and whoever is not there, God will have righteously excluded from his holy presence.
We are only too human, so we feel deeply the pains of uncertainty, or even of assurance. But faith rises above the world of the seen to the world of the unseen. God is in his heaven, accomplishing all his good and perfect will. Leave all your burdens in the glorified, nail-pierced hands of your Saviour. He gives grace upon grace, for he is the God of all grace.
Yours as ever in Christ,