Death of a Friend

September 16, 2013

On Sunday, I was told that a friend had died, and the news made me cry. She had been a great neighbor for 11 years, watching our kids grow as they climbed trees and slid down the hill in her back yard. I cried for the loss, but more because I don’t know if she knew Jesus.

Our family often mentioned Christ. Our neighbors were special, and we wanted them to know. But the words of an early conversation kept ringing in our ears: “Don’t try to convert us; we’re God’s chosen people.” Yet, their commitment to Judaism would not stop our efforts. I still remember the response God gave me in that moment: “Then we will try to love you.”

Part of that love included sharing our faith. We looked for opportunities to tell of our hope in Christ, using the Old Testament whenever we could – in conversations, in cards, in the daily rhythm of life. In her times of illness, we said we would pray, all the while knowing it would be for more than just her health; we also desired her salvation. And so when we heard that our friend had died, the tears spoke of our sense of loss, but also of our fear that she never met Jesus. Could we have done more? Probably, and for that we repent. But is there any hope for the ache we feel now?

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

“As I live declares the LORD GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live …” (Ezekiel 33:11)

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

I have trouble describing my neighbor as wicked, but I know God’s sense of holiness is greater than mine. He gave me a new heart when I wasn’t seeking him; I hope he did the same for our dear neighbor. Salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9), and that salvation is by his grace (Ephesians 2:5). With tears, I praise God for his mercy and thank him for saving sinners through the work of Christ.

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