Saturday, September 18, 2010

What if My Loved One is Not Saved?

This beautiful photo is from
Note:  As long as there is life, it is possible to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If you are privileged to hold the hand of someone who is dying and whose salvation is uncertain, don't miss the chance to offer them the opportunity to receive Christ as Lord. For a dementia patient, keep it simple, something like this: "Would you like to spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven?  Do you believe He died for your sins? He forgives you and loves you, I forgive you and love you..."  (see Jenny's comment following this post).  

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). 

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 Billy Graham 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. 
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. 

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)


  1. I know that perhaps some will quote Romans 10:9 and will tell me that a confession of faith is necessary for salvation. My point in this post is that we cannot fully know the heart of another, and we do not know what has transpired between that other person and the Lord. I wish to give those believers who suffer the agony of uncertainty regarding the salvation of a loved one reassurance that God hears their prayers, that He has determined before the beginning of time who will be with Him in eternity, and that His perfect love has made perfect provision for each one of us. In the end our salvation and that of those we love depends entirely upon the Lord whose love has drawn us to the foot of the Cross.

  2. Linda,

    Your response was very good.

    I have thought about this question from time to time, although I am pretty certain that my mom is saved.

    One thought I had though is that a person with dementia may still have the opportunity to be saved. Their mind is like a child's mind and Christ has said that whoever comes to Him should come like a little child.

    Jenny K

  3. Jenny I'm so glad you made this point. The man who wrote had made overtures in an attempt to reach his mother with the salvation message and had been rebuffed. Because I didn't share the message this gentleman wrote me in its entirety, I didn't talk about the fact that where there is life, there is hope. I probably should add a postscript stating that as long as there is life, there is the opportunity to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

  4. Beautiful reminder that I can do nothing in and of myself; it is all from God's grace and His power to save us and our loved ones. Our job is to pray and trust. Tnx, Linda.

  5. My mom has Dementia and isn’t a Christian. I would like to pray for her and ask if she would except Jesus in her heart. But only thing is she cannot communicate or read. How do I do this?

    1. I would (and do) ask the Lord to save your mom's immortal soul for eternity. Pray from the heart, sharing with the dear Lord who loves you the emotion of your desire that your mom be saved, and I would ask this in Jesus' Name. And then I would hold your mother's hand and say something like this, "Mom, God loves you. Would you like to accept that Jesus has taken the blame for your sins, and to live with Him forever?"

      If there is no response I would try music. Many of the old hymns tell of God's love. You probably know better than I hymns and praise songs that may be familiar to your mom, but you might try Just As I Am, Amazing Grace, Rock of Ages, and In the Garden (find them at Youtube). If she had a favorite singer, you might see whether that artist has recorded an album of hymns. For example, Alan Jackson recorded an album of hymns for his mother entitled "Precious Memories..." If you notice a response in your mother when you play Christian songs for her, you could ask, "Would you like to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?"

      Pray for her every day and do what you can, but remember that it is God who saves, not you. I know that if she makes some overt sign I you would feel blessed and I pray this for her and for you. But you might reread the paragraph in the post above that talks about Billy Graham's assertion that he never saved one person. Ultimately your mother is God's responsibility and not yours.

      Prayers for your mom's salvation and for peace of heart and mind in Christ for you, as you come to Him for comfort and strength.