Because I believe that Jesus Christ was truly the Son of God, and because I know that he died so that we might live with Him in heaven, I know that when I die, I will see heaven. However, I've recently been troubled with the thought that if I am not successful in helping to save my family, I will not be with them in paradise. How will I be able to enjoy heaven, knowing that those I love now will not be with me and will be suffering for eternity? The pain of the thought only makes me pray harder and work hard to save them while I am here.
- FD from Glenshaw, PA
Hearts in the right place (Part 1)
Your feelings about wanting to have all your family members saved are just right! I commend you. Those feelings come from God himself. He feels the same way. When Paul was writing to Timothy he encouraged him to pray for everyone saying; "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
You are also right that unless your loved ones receive Jesus as Savior they will be eternally separated from God. The same passage in 1 Timothy, continues with; "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men." (Verse 5) Therefore, I understand your distress and your dilemma.
The first thing I want to say to encourage you is this: "No one can come to me (Jesus speaking) unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44) While we bear a deep responsibility to pray and witness we can also rest in the knowledge that we cannot save anyone. Only God can bring about a deep heart change. He has to draw them or they can't and won't come. So your continuous prayer can be: "Lord, draw them."
Your heart is in the right place in your earnest desire to share eternity with your family and now we need to pray for their hearts to be in the right place to receive that fantastic gift.
Next: How could I enjoy heaven without them?
Heaven's family (Part 2)
I have a friend who felt the same way you do. She knew that her father was not born again and she always mentioned to me how unbearable that was. She said if she got to heaven and her father was not there she would be devastated and it would not be heaven to her. Finally she came up with the only solution that gave her peace. She heard a preacher say that God will give us divine amnesia when we get to heaven for any unsaved loved ones that don't join us. According to him, we will not remember our family and friends in eternity.
I do not believe that view is biblical but I never told her that. Emotionally, she needed to feel that it was true. She kept on praying for her father and maybe by now he knows the Lord. Actually, the Bible does not explain how heaven will feel like heaven with someone missing but I think we can understand it better as we ponder the family ties you feel so strongly.
It is often said that blood is thicker than water. When you are born into a family, special bonds are established. God created it that way. Besides our natural family, however, we have another family if we are born again. God is our Father and every other believer is our brother or our sister. I have a feeling that those bonds are actually much stronger and deeper than those with our natural family. Our spiritual family ties are probably eternal but our natural family ties may be loosed at death.
Suppose that is true? If so, the removal of the soul ties we held on earth would free us from grief or missing anyone not in heaven with us. We cannot imagine that happening but we have not yet known and felt and seen what it will be like in eternity. From scripture we are certain that we will no longer be under the curse of sin, death, disease. We know that God will wipe away every tear. Paul said; "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9) We can trust God that he has this problem worked out.
Next: What prayers can we pray for our family?
More effective prayers (Part 3)
Besides praying that God will draw your family members to himself, what else can you pray? Our most effective prayers are always from God's Word. We simply cannot go wrong by speaking God's Word back to him. Isaiah 55:11 says; "So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
There are hundreds and even thousands of appropriate verses that you can pray to bring your family before the throne of God. I would suggest that you pray and ask the Holy Spirit to point out the most perfect ones for you to use. Then during your daily Bible reading time, watch and see what seems to leap off the page. Pray those!
I have a friend who asked for such a scripture to pray for her unbelieving husband and the Lord gave her Acts 16:31; "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household." She prayed that scripture for over fourteen years, constantly reminding God that her husband was part of her household. Finally he accepted Christ.
If you have talked to your family about Jesus and they turn a deaf ear, pray that God will send someone into their life that will be able to present the gospel in a way that they can receive. Pray that God will put a hedge of protection around them. Pray that Satan is bound from keeping them spiritually blind and deaf to the truth. Pray that God will give them an insatiable thirst for the truth. Pray that their hearts may be healed of any wounds or hurts that block them from receiving his message of love. Fasting adds a power boost to prayer so add fasting to your prayer routine.
Whatever you do, don't lose your desire for every single family member to come into the kingdom of God. God loves it when we feel about people the way that he feels about them. He paid such a great price for every human being to have the opportunity to have eternal life. I join in prayer with you. May you never know what it is like to be in heaven without one of them.