There is a ready supply of help in print and online about how to mourn for a believer. For this we are thankful. However, there is a dearth of information on the subject of mourning for those who appear to have died outside the saving grace of God in Christ.
We are posting this excerpt from the second sermon in our After Life series in the hope of filling this vacuum and bringing help to those mourning.
How do I mourn for someone who I believe died lost?
A. You shouldn’t attempt to deny the emotions that arise during your mourning; rather you should take them honestly and immediately to God.
I often recommend the Psalms to those who are mourning. I do so because the Psalms are, among other things, nakedly human. The writers rejoice, sorrow, and get mad – often mad at God! This tells me that God desires to engage with us in the full range of the emotional spectrum He has given us. Don’t let your grief, frustration, sorrow, and anger take you away from God – let it carry you to him.
B. Rejoice and enjoy the good that was a part of the loved one you are mourning.
While mankind is totally depraved that does not mean that any human is as wicked as they might possibly be. In fact, the image of God that mankind carries mean men and women are capable of great and delightful good and loveliness, even if they are lost.
As a result we should be quick to enjoy the pleasant memories of those that are lost to us through death and be thankful for the time we had with them.
King David, after his enemy Saul died, is a good example of this in 2 Sam. 1:19–25 1:
Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!… Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!… You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
C. While being honest about the reality that those outside of Christ perish eternally in Hell do not give up hope in grace which is invisible to human eyes.
Wayne Grudem 2: “…it also must be said that we often do not have absolute certainty that a person has persisted in refusal to trust in Christ all the way to the point of death. The knowledge of one’s impending death often will bring about genuine heart searching on the part of the dying person, and sometimes words of Scripture or words of Christian testimony that have been heard long ago will be recalled and the person may come to genuine repentance and faith. Certainly, we do not have any assurance that this has happened unless there is explicit evidence for it, but it is also good to realize that in many cases we have only probable but not absolute knowledge that those whom we have known as unbelievers have persisted in their unbelief until the point of death.”
God is consistently, scandalously, surprisingly gracious. Who knows, as it pertains to your loved one, what gifts of grace the Lord has kept up His sleeve? The story of the thief on the cross illustrates that the grace of Christ can show up in the most surprising of places and at the latest of hours.
D. Let this experience drive you to make sure, as far as it depends on you, to not experience this kind of grieving with anyone else you love.
Share the gospel, not only to protect your heart in the event you outlive another loved one but so that you might enjoy their company as you enjoy Christ for eternity!
E. Trust that God Himself will comfort you.
It might not be perceivable at a given hour but trust that the Holy Spirit really is a comforter and that Christ really has called you friend. Chose to believe that Romans 8:28 is true – that for those who love God all things work together for good.
This is true in this life and in to eternity. Scripture says that will wipe away every tear from [the] eyes [of His children], and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
We don’t know all the specifics of how He is doing that wonderful work but we do know that He is! And, however He accomplishes this, it is immeasurably good!