Unfortunately, the same belief, which brings us hope and comfort, can also cause doubt and anxiety. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. (If not, consider yourself blessed.) Most of us have been tormented at times by questions we’re afraid even to speak out loud—questions like: Will I ever see father or mother again? What about my friend, who took his own life? What about our baby, who never even got a chance to be born, much less accept the Lord? These are the kinds of questions that gnaw at one’s soul. My aunt, “Tante” Karla died last week. She grew up in a Baptist church and in a good Christian home, but in her adult life she didn’t attend church and never openly professed faith in Christ as far as I know. Does this mean she’s now separated from the love of God?
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know. I’m not qualified to judge anyone else’s salvation. Only God knows what goes on in a person’s soul. I can’t tell you what happened in her heart at the point of death, if anything. But I’ll tell you something I do know that gives me comfort and hope: my aunt is in the hands of a loving God whose mercy is greater than I can imagine.
When Jesus was crucified he hung on a cross between two sinners, two thieves. One mocked him in unbelief. The other embraced him with sincere faith and was promised paradise as a reward. It was a dramatic end for both—triumphant for one, tragic for the other. Most of us live our lives somewhere in between. Between acceptance and rejection. Between faith and doubt. Between desire and dispassion. We live in a dark world where the path before us is often unclear and our own hearts become uncertain. We see through a glass darkly, the Bible says, like trying to look through a dirty window (1 Cor. 13:12). Maybe it has to be that way. There can’t be true faith without some element of doubt. Otherwise it wouldn’t be faith. Even those of us who believe, still live in between the now and the not-yet, between time and eternity.
Not only do most of us live somewhere in between, many people, like my Tante Karla, also seem to die in between—between acceptance and rejection of the truth. But think about this: What was in between the two thieves, between the one who professed his faith publicly and the one who cursed openly? Jesus! That’s where Jesus is. And that’s where hope is.