Question from a reader:
Please help me understand if my young adult daughter is with God. She ended her life earlier this year, and I am struggling. She was 10 when we talked about Jesus, and she felt she wanted to know Him. But after that she didn’t choose God, and I feel responsible because I didn’t really lead her well, and we hardly talked about God. She struggled so much with anxiety and depression. I feel like I made every mistake in her life, and she could have been happier if I were different. And now it’s too late and what if she’s not safe? It is torture.
Answer from Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff:
I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, and the added pain and regret that you have felt in the wake of your daughter’s death. I’m praying for you and your family as I write this. This is a very long reply to your message, but perhaps something I share will be of help to you.
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. (Here are some options for finding help: Association of Biblical Counselors and Focus on the Family: Counseling Consultation and Referrals – “The consultation is available at no cost to you due to generous donor support and will be with one of our licensed or pastoral counseling specialists.”)
I’ve been reading Beyond the Darkness by Clarissa Moll, and I recommend it. In fact, I doubt it’s an accident that I read this portion just the day before responding to your message:
In grief, you may find yourself wanting to rewrite the past. Sorrow may give you a view, for the first time, of your own sins. As a hedge against our own regrets, we often try to simplify complexities and smooth over our own wrongdoing. Death offers us no do-overs, and this can feel scary. What could be more dangerous, then, than to look into that rearview mirror with honesty?
However, the pathway to peace begins with honesty and confession. We don’t reckon with the past by ignoring it. We discover peace in grief and relief from regret when we bring the truth into the light. You can stop pretending the past was perfect and acknowledge that relationships weren’t always right. Continuing your bonds of love may mean first stopping to say, “I’m sorry.”
The Grief Recovery Handbook offers a helpful exercise in apologizing and offering forgiveness to our deceased loved one in a way that can move us forward toward health. Authors John James and Russell Friedman encourage you to write a letter to your loved one in which you complete these three sentences:
- “I apologize for…”
- “I forgive you for…”
- “I want you to know…”
We all want to bring our person forward into the years ahead, but to do this without continual regret, we need to pursue inner peace. As we confess our sins to God, we can find resolution and restoration for the errors of our past, even when the person is no longer with us. We can find peace, even when we can’t undo or redo. You can confess your sins in a letter to your person, silently to God, or to a trusted friend. You can make things right now so that grief’s companionship need not add an extra burden through the years to come.
You asked about your daughter’s eternal destination; what a hard thing for a parent to wrestle with in light of all the other grief and pain you are feeling. We know that God is the only true and righteous Judge, and He alone sees and knows all of our hearts. He is also the only perfect Judge; He alone is qualified to judge human hearts; something that I or Randy or you cannot do. 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.” (Some of what Randy wrote in this blog might be of help.)
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.”
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. 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 child’s salvation is not a burden you were made to carry, especially in the midst of so much grief that you have to process. It’s easier said than done, and it’s certainly a process, but we really can trust the Lord and leave our 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).
One of our other staff members wrote this to someone who was grieving:
Our perspective in grieving is so important. God is infinite, all-knowing, and all-wise along with being sovereign. He knows things we’ll never know and can see the big picture we are incapable of comprehending. We always want answers when things don’t go the way we’d like, and as we know from reading about Job, God only gives us the answers we truly need. Please remember that it takes time to reach that place of perspective. Be patient with yourself during this process. I’ve experienced a great deal of loss, and I wouldn’t wish that part of my story on anyone. I also wouldn’t want to have missed the resulting depth of my relationship with God for anything. I promise you: if you keep seeking God’s face and keep being honest with Him about your pain and keep asking Him your questions humbly and with the desire to remain faithful whether you like the answers or not, you will make it through this with greater faith and a beautiful sense of God’s great love and care for you. The Valley of the Shadow of Death is a scary, lonely, dark place; aren’t you glad Jesus is our Good Shepherd who walks through it with us to the banquet at the other end? And, also in Psalm 23, don’t miss the beginning: “Because the Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”
This is a small booklet on loss from suicide that we’ve recommended to others. It’s written by a counselor who Randy has great appreciation for.
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, and may you sense Jesus walking alongside you in this grief journey.
Photo by Liza Summer