"I'm Scared My Sister Isn't With God"

My sister passed away suddenly a little over a year ago. For the past year, I have been haunted by bad thoughts of her not being with God. You see, my sister was a good person, she believed in God but was not a church goer. She had her own personal relationship with God by visiting His church weekly (Saturdays) and praying in private. What bothers me, I am a Catholic, she did not receive the sacraments for many many years. Nor did she have last rites. I am so worried she's not with God--it's crushing me inside. I know you can't tell me she's safe in Heaven. But maybe you could help me somehow with this problem. Thank you for your help.  

Hello friend,

First of all, let me tell you that I was raised a Catholic too, so I understand exactly where you're coming from and why you experience the fears you're feeling.

But I've learned some very freeing things over the past 25 years, and one of them is that it is not necessary to receive the Catholic Church's sacraments in order to have a vital, intimate relationship with God. You said your sister had her own personal relationship with God. That's one of the other things I discovered--that, quite distinct from what I was taught in catechism, biblical Christianity is about a personal relationship with God through Jesus. . .it's not about doing, it's about being. Being reconciled to God.

If your sister had a personal relationship with God through Jesus, then it probably meant that she had trusted Him to take away the penalty of her sin, and thus she is with him. It's as simple as that: Jesus offers us eternal life because He died for us, and we receive His gift of that life not because of anything we can do, but in spite of the fact that we can't do anything to earn it. It's a gift!

But I know what you mean about the hard part of not knowing about whether someone is with the Lord or not. I'd like to suggest two things. One is to make a conscious transaction with God where you put your sister in His hands and release her to Him. It's the only way for you to have peace about the unknown. Many people find it helpful to do something physical, such as write the name of a person (or a situation) on a helium balloon and deliberately releasing it to the Lord, so you can watch it go up, up, up away from you and toward heaven.

The other thing you can do is pray something like this: "Lord, You know where my sister is. If she's with You, would you please let me know so I can relax about it? Would you show me or tell me in some way that I will know it's You?" I remember when I prayed that prayer about my aunt. It was so cool to hear His voice in my heart, gently say, "Relax, Sue. She's with me."

A year ago, my own mother died. Although she had last rites, I know (and knew as she was dying) beyond a shadow of a doubt that they didn't make any difference, because she had nailed down her relationship with Christ long before. Last rites comfort the dying and the loved ones, but they don't do anything to change our relationship with God. That's a matter of the heart, not a matter of a priest's prayers. God only has one-on-one relationships with His children. The only mediator between us and the Father is Jesus. No one else.

I hope this helps. I'm sorry for the depth of your loss. I can tell you really miss your sister. I pray God will give you peace, one way or another.

In His grip,

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries