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Piper and Lee on How to Have Peace When Your Unsaved Loved Ones Die

Trip Lee said he has “a lot of the same instincts” as Piper as far as how to counsel people wrestling with the fate of their unsaved loved ones. Lee in particular emphasized the importance of trusting in God’s character. “I would want to encourage somebody to acquaint themselves with the goodness of God,” he said, “because when we can understand how good and how just God is, it helps us to be at peace with his wisdom.”

Piper agreed that even when we do not understand God’s decisions, we can trust in his character. Once Piper had to preach at the funeral of a man who—as far as anyone knew—died without trusting in Jesus. The pastor decided to close the service with a quote from Genesis 18:25: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Lee noted that it’s common for people to feel guilt when someone they love dies, and he said it’s especially likely that Christians will feel guilt for not having shared the gospel (or for not having shared it enough) with their unsaved loved ones. “It can turn into a thing where you dwell on how it’s your fault,” he said. 

In this situation, Lee encourages people to consider Romans 9, which tells us that people’s salvation ultimately depends on God, not us. But that does not negate the importance of sharing the gospel. Piper pointed out that the very same passage describes Paul’s “sorrow and unceasing anguish” for unbelieving Jews, and Romans 10 reveals that Paul was diligent to pray for their salvation. The point is, said Piper, “It’s right to feel anguish, it’s right to pray, and it’s right to know God calls the shots.”

Lee compared our struggle to comprehend God’s justice to when Lee was a child and did not understand why his father wanted him to do something. The more he was familiar with his dad’s character, the more Lee was willing to obey even when he didn’t understand his father’s reasoning. Likewise, with God we can say, “I don’t really know how that’s best, but I trust that you know best.”

For those who are still burdened by the deaths of unsaved loved ones, Piper encouraged them to take comfort from passages like Psalm 55:22, which says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you.” And what a sign of God’s goodness, said Lee, that he actually “commands” us to give our burdens to him so we can have peace.

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Jessica is a content editor for ChurchLeaders.com and the producer of The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past five years. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys West Coast Swing dancing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.