Would an Addiction to Alcohol Have Kept My Loved One Who Professed Christ from Going to Heaven?
Note from a Reader:
I recently lost my husband. He was a good man and loved me very much. He was also an alcoholic who fought so hard to beat this insidious disease. I was coping OK until I heard a teaching that slammed alcoholism as a sin. Now I spend my days worrying about him and where he is. He was such a good man and gave his life to Jesus. He looked to God—his written prayers and notes that I found after he passed were enough to break my heart. Now I am left to feel he may have lost his salvation. I’m heartbroken and struggling.
Response from Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff:
I’ve been prayerfully considering your message and what I might be able to share to point you to Jesus in the midst of such pain. Your heartache is so palpable. First of all, I wanted to ask if you have a home church? This is such a difficult time and you need the support and love of the body of Christ around you. I would also strongly recommend that you consider seeing a solid Christian counselor as you work through these issues. Talking with a counselor has been such a help throughout my own personal grief process. Perhaps a local church might be able to recommend a good one in your area.
I love what you shared about your husband and his heart for the Lord and his strong love for you. There was fruit in his life, evidence of his having a saving relationship with Christ (Matthew 7). Of course, God is the only true and righteous Judge and He alone sees and knows all of our hearts. I read this advice recently from a pastor: “Never trade what you do know for what you don’t know.” So while we as humans cannot be the final judge of what is in someone’s heart, I think it is appropriate to think through what we can truly know, based on Scripture.
Scripture is clear that alcoholism is a sin, and that like all sin, it is a form of idolatry. As you so painfully know, its effects are devastating and heartbreaking, both for the person addicted and for their family. However, we also know that alcoholism is certainly not an unforgiveable sin. (For more on the unforgiveable sin Jesus talked about in Scripture, see this resource from Desiring God.) There are many Christians who have had ongoing addictions in their lives, and while the message to those who are alive now is that God offers help and hope and desires for them to leave their sin and addiction behind so they can walk in freedom, we cannot say that those who have an addiction are excluded from having a saving relationship with Jesus.
We know that Jesus came to save sinners, and that those who come to Him in faith are secure in His love and forgiveness. We all desperately need His forgiveness. And we know that because our salvation is not dependent on our good deeds, we therefore cannot lose it when we sin. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). He also said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
Randy writes about these verses, “What could we expect Jesus to say to make it more emphatic that if someone is truly saved they cannot lose their salvation?” He also writes, “If someone truly knows Christ, then regardless of what they do, they cannot be snatched out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28). Ephesians 1:13 and 2 Corinthians 1:22 speak of believers being sealed in Him. Only God knows a person’s heart and if they were truly were a believer.”
We also know that nothing can separate those who in Christ from God’s love: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). I love what Nancy Guthrie writes related to this:
If God’s grace has found us and is clearly at work in us, we do not have to fear that sins in our past or sins in our future will disqualify us from enjoying the benefits of God’s gracious covenant. God has bound himself to us, and nothing can come between us. Your genetic predispositions, your sinful tendencies, the moral failures of your past, the culture you live in, the path you have taken so far in your life—none of these are destined to have the last word in your life. God’s grace toward you in Christ has the last, the lasting, and the determining word in your life... Grace binds you to Christ so that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38–39).
Finally, we know that God is good and He is the righteous and perfect Judge, who alone is qualified to judge human hearts. Abraham said in Genesis 18:25, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” As Randy puts it, this is “a rhetorical question that assumes and demands a ‘yes’ answer.” (While it is obviously addressing a different situation, some of what Randy wrote in this blog might be of help.)
Where does this leave you? I think it means that you can find rest for your grieving and weary heart by trusting in the goodness, sovereignty, and love of God, both for your husband and for you. I love how the NET Bible translates Psalm 32:10: “The LORD’s faithfulness overwhelms the one who trusts in him.” There is such solace and comfort in studying God’s Word and His character. It is a firm foundation in a world of hurt and pain.
I truly believe that worrying about your husband’s salvation is not a burden you were made to carry, especially in the midst of so much grief that you have to process. You can bank on what you do know and then trust the Lord and leave your worries and concerns in His capable and loving hands: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).
Randy writes, “Not only in Heaven but also while we are still here on Earth, our God is ‘the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort’ (2 Corinthians 1:3). Any sorrows that plague us now will disappear on the New Earth as surely as darkness disappears when the light is turned on. ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain’ (Revelation 21:4, ESV).”
May you experience His comfort in a deep and personal way in the coming months and years.
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.