Losing a loved one for eternity


Our pastor recently preached on this subject and undoubtedly touched many hearts and convicted the brethren to be more persistent in leading our loved ones to Christ.

But how do you overcome the guilt of losing loved ones (especially your own parents or children) with whom you were unable to share the gospel even when you had an opportunity, and you feel you lost them for eternity?


Hi @dennis, thank you for this question. If I’m being honest, this is a very hard subject to reflect on…as you say, the guilt of missed conversation opportunities can feel overwhelming, and the pain from this could be terrible. I always try to remember that whilst God wants us to share the Gospel, thankfully the full responsibility does not rest on our shoulders - this lies with the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in everyone’s lives. We know that the Spirit testifies with our spirits when we are saved that we belong to God (Romans 8:16), and I believe that the Spirit is also at work in unbelievers’ lives witnessing the truth of Jesus through creation (Romans 1:19, John 16:8-14)

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 says

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Whether we shared a straightforward Gospel message, held in depth theological conversations, or acted out the love of Jesus through our lives without speaking a word about Jesus, it is God, who made light shine out of darkness who is sovereign overall in the lives of our family members.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready to share the hope that we hold “with anyone who asks”. What if that family member never asked about it? Should we feel a sense of responsibility or guilt then? Now, I think that it is natural to carry these burdens to some extent - that is the outworking of deeply loving other human beings and wanting them to know the joy of salvation. However, I think it’s important to be realistic about the guilt we should or shouldn’t carry. However we play our role as ambassadors of Christ, it is God moving people towards the truth in their hearts. I think God asks us to be faithful to Him as we will stand before Him one day, accounting for our obedience, but thankfully God carries the burden of salvation fully.

This may sound insufficient for such a question, but this is one of those questions where I have to hand over to God and trust that He provided every opportunity for that family member to hear the Gospel in whichever ways they needed. We could otherwise be in danger of going down some dark corridors of guilt which I don’t think are productive.
This conversation is sobering and positive for reminding us of the absolute need for preparedness in sharing the Gospel in our words and deeds. These are some thoughts - I must confess I find this hard to think about, so I hope that others may shed some encouragement and wisdom on this subject.


Hi @dennis, thank you for this very sincere question. I can’t imagine the void that can be left in our hearts when we lose a loved one and feel no hope of meeting them again. We may blame ourselves for not being more forthright about evangelism. If you or someone you know is experiencing this grief right now, I am so very sorry and I pray for the Lord’s healing presence to fill that void.

When we experience guilt amidst difficult emotions, it can be difficult to separate what is a legitimate guilt and what is not. I believe that a conviction from the Lord will lead to a deep desire for confession and repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). If we have persistent guilt, perhaps we think that our failures are too big to deserve God’s forgiveness, or perhaps we are in a situation where we are constantly reminded of our sins by others. All we can do in this situation I think is to remove ourselves from the situation, take our sins to God and cry out for His grace. The Lord wishes that NO ONE fails to receive the grace of God ( Heb. 12:15). We can move past our guilt only by His grace and power.

However, your question also raised a theological issue. What part does our responsibility in evangelism play toward the salvation of a loved one? As @Alison explained, salvation of a person is not dependent on man but God’s sovereign plan. We have a responsibility to evangelize but it is the Lord who convicts the hearts towards salvation (John 6:65). Even when we fail in our efforts, God could still accomplish His will through other means. According to 1 Cor. 3:7-8, each person may get more than one chance at hearing God’s message. This verse along with Rom. 10: 14-15 help us see that we have a privilege to participate in God’s plan through evangelism but we are not individually necessary to fulfill His plan. As an example, we see that God saved the Ninevites according to God’s sovereign plan despite the rebellion and disobedience of Jonah. I think we can confidently believe in the principle that God’s sovereign plans cannot be thwarted by man’s disobedience. Are there other examples in scripture you see towards this principle?

So overall, I think its not biblically accurate to take upon ourselves the guilt of someone losing salvation. All we may bear guilt for is not doing our part in evangelism, which the Lord graciously forgives as we come to Him in repentance.

As I tried to respond to your question, I feel a sense of conviction that I have pursued evangelism as an effort for souls to be saved than with the primary intention of serving God’s glory. It has sometimes led me to feel angry with God or feel guilty when my efforts didn’t bear fruit as hoped. I pray that we may all grow in our ability to do all things in Him, through Him, and unto Him.