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Last week I received an email through the customer contact page on my website. The man who wrote told me a heart-rending story of his mother's struggle with dementia. She suffered early onset Alzheimer's, the most devastating form of the disease, often striking its victims before the age of 60. His grief over his mother was more intense because he felt uncertain of her salvation.
I felt great compassion and spent time in prayer for this man and his family. In my reply to him there may be comfort for others who feel uncertain of the salvation of a loved one who is ill, or who has died. In the end, our confidence in the Lord's love and perfect plan overrides our fears that we may not see someone we love in Heaven. Here, in part, is the reply I sent:
Our salvation comes through believing in Christ, not through any works or even a formal profession of faith. It is the belief itself that constitutes the faith in Christ that saves us. "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (italics mine). There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:22-23).I pray God's peace for this man, and for any reading these words who suffer fear or uncertainty over the salvation of a loved one.
Although you didn't say so, I imagine that your mom is exhibiting behaviors that are not Christlike, and that this increases your concern over whether or not she is saved. The "all have sinned" portion of the Scripture above is always reassuring to me. My mother, too, exhibits unlovely, un-Christlike behaviors. And because Mom has declined cognitively, she no longer recognizes that she's done wrong. I don't believe she confesses the sins she commits now. But I have no doubt of her salvation. She has believed in Christ Jesus.
We enter into the Kingdom of Heaven by grace and grace alone. It was Christ's blood, the Father's will, and the Holy Spirit's power that purchased our salvation. Nothing is required of us but that we believe in what Christ has done. Of course it is desirable that our faith bears fruit. But Acts 16:31 says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."
You have prayed fervently for your mother's salvation. The Bible says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15). And so this leads me to believe that the Lord will assure your mother's place in Heaven.
I would like you to let yourself off the hook for not having led your mom more fervently to the Cross. If you really feel you have sinned in this area, then ask the Lord for forgiveness. Pray that He will heal any sins of omission you committed, and that He will show you how to make restitution if necessary. However, I really don't think this is the case. I think you are experiencing a normal cycle of grief as you lose your mom, and that remorse and guilt tend to be a part of grieving. It must feel like your mom is drowning and you just aren't quite a good enough swimmer to get out there and save her. But please remember that saving sinners isn't something we as human beings are able to do. I remember a story about saying he never saved one sinner. He gave all the credit to the Lord. Jesus said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). The Lord Himself is the one who does the "drawing." As human beings the most powerful thing we can do toward salvation for our loved ones is to pray. Your mom has had the salvation message presented to her. She knows of Christ and of His death and resurrection. What has transpired in her heart is between her and the Lord.
Scripture: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus...For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:4-6, 8-9)