I am suffering as I write this. Yes, suffering. No, I am not ill. I am not injured. I have not lost my home, my job, or any of my belongings. And no, I am not facing the end of my wonderful marriage.
I am suffering for one reason; I did not heed the call to share Jesus with a loved one. And now it's too late.
My former sister-in-law is right now breathing her last in a hospice house in Ohio. She was at one time married to my first husband's brother. Over the years, even after my first husband and I were divorced, Marie and I still had our special friendship, even though we did not see each other often.
You see, I know she didnt' know Jesus. She just never had time for such things. A good person, yes, and I adore her. But saved....no. She had a difficult life from childhood up, which caused her to not trust just anybody. But she trusted me.
I was to go see her last summer, when I went to Ohio to visit my family. I was going to drive the hour to visit her, and I was going to share the Gospel with her. I knew her cancer was serious. I knew God told me to go. But when I got there, family things got in the way, or, rather, I allowed them to get in the way. I called her and made my excuses and told her I would catch her next time. Next time never came.
For the past three days, her daughter has been texting me about Marie's journey into the next life. I feel so guilty, not knowing which life she is going into. Not knowing if while going through this illness she has had a heart change, if anybody else has approached her and possibly led her to Christ, not knowing if she is assured of her salvation. My feeling is no. God gave it to me to do, and I didn't. Would He take my job and give it to someone else? I desperately hope so.
So as I wait, and as I feed words of encouragement and peace to my niece, I also have asked God to forgive me, and to not let Marie die without Him because of my failure to obey. Like He would do that to her, or to anyone. If she goes without Him, it is still by her choice. But knowing that I was sent to change that, to give her the greatest opportunity we have in life, this tears at my heart. I see now that God may have used me to make a difference for her, not only in her eternal home, but in the life she lived here on earth. I betrayed not only her trust, but my God.
Christians have a huge responsibility to share Christ with others. While it is true that not all of us have the gift of evangelism, we are all still charged with that command, and if we shirk it, we pay the price. Regret, heartache, asking forgiveness, asking for mercy. Mercy for the ones we failed to share with. Mercy for ourselves in our disobedience.
I know God has forgiven me. He promises this in His word. But He also promises we will have to give an accounting of our actions when we meet Him face to face. I was never really afraid of that before. But today I am feeling differently, even though I know He has forgiven me, even though I know I will still go to Heaven. My fear comes from knowing I had His power to change my loved one's life, and I wasted the opportunity, the divine appointment He gave me to do His will.
I confess this to you, in shame, in heartbreak, in the hopes that you will understand, and that you will never shirk this great responsibility as I have done. Be assured, I will not allow it to happen again. His is the greatest story ever told, and I will never withhold that life saving gift again.
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."--Matthew 28:19