Standing before a Holy God

I’m struggling today. A friend I knew well took her own life Sunday morning. She had been seriously depressed for several years. Still, the news came like a punch to the gut.
A group of us gathered last night to comfort one another and try to sort through the tangle of hurt. Our friend was a believer. She faithfully participated in the Sunday school class I helped to lead, had attended one of my listening prayer retreats, and I’d had many spiritual discussions with her. Others of us had done healing prayer with her over the long haul. Still others had studied God’s Word with her. Not to mention the meals, walks, and games of Scrabble we shared with her.
Some of those gathered mentioned conversations they’d had with our friend about what happens to the souls of believers who commit suicide. She’d asked me that, too. I remember feeling uncomfortable at the question. I didn’t want to suggest a simple answer to such a significant issue which, for my friend, was probably not merely hypothetical.
I think I said something about the Bible not clearly spelling out the answer to such a question so I didn’t want to either. In retrospect, I regret not saying more, not following up and suggesting we study the question together.
All of this has me thinking deeply about what I think about God and eternity. My evangelism training taught me to ask, “If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?” But I couldn’t sleep last night wondering, Important as it is, isn’t there more to consider than just one’s eternal destination? How does our relationship with God figure in?
My spiritual journey has taught me the value of my relationship with God—not just the assurance of heaven when I die, but of living in actual relationship with God right now. I know the effect our friend’s suicide has had on those of us who cared about her. So how, I wonder, does our friend’s choice to end her life affect her Father who made her, loves her, and had plans and purposes for her life?
Sometime in the middle of the night Hebrews 9:27 rang in my soul: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” Related verses rushed in: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10); “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
I pictured Job. At first he boldly attempted to present his case to God—but when God showed up in all His holy power, Job fell speechless. I wondered what it would be like for my friend to stand before God. I wondered what it will be like for me when my turn comes.
What I realize now and so much wish I’d seen earlier is that making it to heaven and avoiding hell is not the only issue to consider. My friend’s death has made me realize that grateful as I’ll be to be in heaven when I die, I also want to be ready to face my Maker. He loves me infinitely well—but He also will ask me to give an account for my life and faith. How much I wish I’d discussed these things with her!
I often talk and write about the importance of cultivating an accurate view of God so we can pray effectively. Usually, I address the harsh views people typically have of God and help them to see Him as gentle Father and faithful Friend. I won’t stop doing that—it’s critical. But this experience with my friend has taught me that I also don’t ever want to forget that He is also a holy, righteous Judge. He is our Creator who made us with His own purposes in mind. He is our Lord and Master—to whom we owe an account for how we use the things He entrusts to us, including our very lives. And He is our Father who one day will look us in the eye—perhaps with tears in His own—to ask us how much we trusted Him as we lived out the lives He gave us.

2 thoughts on “Standing before a Holy God

  1. Phil says:

    I feel that it’s not how we die, but how we lived that matters to God.

  2. Polly says:

    Those are thoughts worth pondering for sure. Many have had the experience of having someone fairly close to them commit suicide. It’s hard to know what to do with it, and someone always wants you to define exactly what God is going to do with that.
    I really like your idea that we all need to reflect on meeting our maker, not just ‘getting into heaven’. I think you do address that in your teaching, because you always emphasize our relationship with God as very much a real person to person relationship. Not that God is just our heavenly host who we may avoid once we get to the party.

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