Friday, April 25, 2014

Has Someone You Love Turned Her Back on God?

by Jill Jackson

Perhaps the most painful wounds are the ones inflicted when a loved one walks away from the faith. Has your heart been broken because someone in your Christian family turned his back on God? Have you laid awake, heavily burdened by the realization that someone you love has in essence looked God in the face and said, "The pleasures of this life are worth more to me than you"? Have you felt the gravity of eternal consequences that await one who made this choice and shuddered for her? Have you felt the utter heartbreak that accompanies the feeling of watching someone willingly walk away from the road that leads to life? Have you felt the despair of finality when individuals such as this have passed from this life and sealed their eternity? I have such wounds, and I imagine you probably do too.

I once watched a brother in Christ, who shared my burden over certain wayward souls, become overcome with grief. He had pleaded for these individuals to turn back to the Lord, but his plea fell on deaf ears. His love so genuine, his sorrow so great, that a crowded room couldn't even suppress his pain. He could hardly speak. His heartache over his lack of success was so raw, and his tears were many. The most heart-breaking part of that moment was that these wayward souls had no appreciation for the depth of love that was felt for them. They chose to view my friend (and all others who sought to help them), as their enemy, because he opposed their sinful ways. In reality, they had no greater friend than that man who wept for their souls.

When a loved one no longer loves what's right, it hurts and brings stress to our lives. Christianity requires investing time and energy into people, but the reality is, not all investments are going to yield the desired return. Christians can lose their love for the Lord and gain a love for the world (1 John 2:15). Christians can become dull of hearing and fail to grow (Hebrews 5:11-14). Christians can completely drift away from the faith (Hebrews 2:1-4).

When my heart is heavy because I can't make someone living wrong live right, I turn to God's word for comfort. What comforts me the most is knowing I am not the only one to deal with such sorrows. Long before I knew such heartache, Samuel experienced it. Samuel told Saul to fear God and serve him faithfully. He told Saul he would pray for him and instruct him in the good and right way. He warned Saul if he lived wickedly he would be swept away. He was a true friend who cared deeply about Saul’s soul. King Saul should have treasured such a friendship, but there came a time when he quit valuing Samuel's words.

When his men became restless and fearful, Saul chose to go against God's way and offered the burnt offering instead of waiting for Samuel. He failed to follow all of God's commands, and his decision to choose wrong—when what was right had been clearly expressed—was discouraging to Samuel. King Saul's disobedience cost him his kingdom and forever altered his friendship with Samuel. Once Saul began to seek after his own desires instead of God's, Samuel understood their priorities were no longer the same. Repeated confrontation with Saul's sinful choices was spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing to Samuel. He was burdened by Saul's negative changes and cried to the Lord all night long (1 Samuel 15:11).

Because Samuel always had Saul's spiritual interest in mind, he was never afraid to show him the error of his way. We, too, have an obligation, born of love, to look out for our Christian family and to try to steer them in the right direction when needed (Galatians 6:1). We need to pray for these individuals (1 John 5:16). We need to plead for them to repent, understanding that the longer one lives in a sinful state, the more comfortable he becomes with being removed from God and his spiritual family. Time is of the essence! One who has taken a deliberate step off the road to heaven has put her eternity in jeopardy (2 Peter 2:20-21). Our goal is to reach the wayward while their heart is yet tender.

Sadly, there are some who cannot be reached because their hearts have become hardened (Ephesians 4:18). They have rejected God and his ways. They live in sin and love its pleasures. They are unconcerned about their Christian family and the eternal consequences that await. Repentance carries no appeal. Such is the sin that leads to death (1 John 5:16).

When dealing with a wayward soul such as this, we must follow the example of Samuel. Once Saul’s choices were no longer pleasing to God, Samuel separated from him and saw him no more (1 Samuel 15:35). There can be situations in which one is so overcome with grief that priorities and obligations can become compromised. In these circumstances distance becomes a necessity.

But distance is not limited to a physical sense. Even without frequently seeing Saul, Samuel’s grief was still a weight on his heart. Lengthy sorrow can cause one to appear dissatisfied with God’s providence and gift of free will. The Lord had to give Samuel a nudge and asked, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel” (1 Samuel 16:1)? Physical separation wasn’t enough to cap Samuel’s sorrow and get him back to the work at hand. He needed emotional distance.

Emotional distance requires accepting that we’ve done all we could reasonably do to restore the lost soul. It’s reaching a point of confident peace that God is fair and just (Ezekiel 18:25-32). Trusting this, we develop the ability to ponder a situation without being debilitated emotionally or hindered in our service to God. It requires a lot of strength to walk away and let someone sleep in the bed they’ve made. But perhaps doing so will help the one astray return to the fold (Luke 15). The lack of relationships once held dear can cause one to consider the state of his life and may result in positive changes.

Sometimes positive changes seem hopeless. Being a friend to the wayward is emotionally challenging, but we must never allow ourselves to be placed in a position where such situations become spiritually challenging. We have a duty to serve the Lord and shouldn't allow burdens like these to hinder the good works we can and should do. We must remember how Christ emphasized to his disciples that there would be people who would not receive them or listen to their words. We must follow his instructions to shake the dust from our feet and move on (Matthew 10:14). Hope in the knowledge that God’s word is powerful. Trust that he is able to do more than we could ask or imagine. And above all, have complete confidence in the fact that he is fair and just.

Recommended Reading

Jackson, Wayne. Should Weak Christians Be Disfellowshipped?

Jackson, Wayne. The Controversy Regarding Christian Fellowship.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you do very much for this. This is a gem.