One of the hardest situations is when an elderly relative dies and we don’t know if they put their trust in the Lord. A question came up at our youth version of #FirstLook this week. Here’s some quick thoughts.
On Counselling Greiving Relatives and speaking at funerals
1. Our aim must never be to give false hope and comfort to relatives. So, when we are uncertain about someone’s faith, we should focus on reminding the grieving of the hope that they do/can have in the Lord.
2. We must be biblically truthful. Grief can encourage us to slacken up on this. Remember God’s truth is always more grace filled and loving than our attempts at mercy, even when it sounds hard and/or like law. This means, for example, that we must not entertain the idea of post- mortem conversion. This is the idea that Jesus appears to people after they die and gives them a second chance. The Bible says that ” It is appointed to man once to die and after that the judgement.”
3. We are not God and so we cannot read hearts and minds or second guess what is going on. I’ve sat by the bedside of someone who seems to be slipping away and they have not been able to communicate with me. This does not mean that they are not able to communicate with God. We don’t know what goes on in those last hours.
On living with, caring for and ministering to elderly and dying people
1. The key thing here is that we should use every opportunity to share the Gospel. Don’t give up. My own granddad came to faith on his death bed. This was the last verbal conversation he was able to have with my dad.
2. We should not give up simply because someone seems unresponsive or lacks the cognitive skills to understand and communicate (e.g due to dementia). Keep singing hymns and choruses with them, talking to them about Jesus, sharing Bible verses and praying. As I mentioned above, whilst we may feel powerless in communicating, we simply do not know how much is going on spiritually, except that we have seen hints of spiritual responsiveness. In the same way that God can communicate with a small child and give them the faith they need or with someone with severe learning difficulties, so too I believe he can speak to someone whose mental capacities have declined due to aging and disease.