How Can I Comfort a Friend Who Lost One of Her Unbelieving Parents?

Question from a reader:

I will be attending a memorial service for a dear friend’s mother who was not a Christian. Her father is devastated, even though she had battled cancer for nine years. How can I offer hope at such a time?  

Answer from Brenda Abelein, EPM support staff:

Losing a loved one is a difficult season to navigate no matter what the circumstances. Comforting those who have lost a loved one they do not believe had a personal relationship with Jesus is even tougher. Begin by praying for comfort for the family, openness of their hearts to receive the care you offer, and wisdom as you reach out in Jesus’ name to them. If ever there is a time when unbelievers may be most tender and open to hearing the gospel, it is when a loved one dies.

Remember, too, that we may not know whether a person has turned to Christ for their salvation. If they are critically ill or unresponsive in their final days, they may not be able to speak, but can communicate with God without any words at all. Someday in Heaven we may be surprised (and excited!) to find people who we didn't think were believers but called out to the Lord in their final hours. And God, in his loving kindness, hears them and gladly welcomes them into His kingdom at any moment. For this reason, it’s important that we never forget the daily urgency to take every opportunity to share the Good News with everyone we meet. We never know what part our little piece of the puzzle may play in their journey to Christ, when they may turn to Him, or when they will die and it will be too late to share.

Randy has performed many memorial services for those who were thought not to have known Christ personally. He often says “If your loved one could speak to you today, this is what they would want you to know...” and then tells them about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins which allows us all the opportunity to experience Heaven someday.

In times of grief we need friends who will be good listeners, offer unconditional love, and walk with us through the fire. When offering comfort, pray that God will equip you to be all that they need as they go through a difficult season, and talk with them about Heaven and God’s love as the Lord prompts you. Many people also share Randy’s Heaven Booklet as a tool to guide the conversation about Heaven, or to include with a card for the family.

This Q&A appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Eternal Perspectives, EPM's quarterly magazine.

Brenda Abelein works part-time as a ministry assistant at Eternal Perspective Ministries, both as a receptionist and also assisting other staff with projects.