Written by Jon Zenor
This article has been a really tough one to write. After several days of thinking about this I don’t even know how to begin, so I will just start writing…
On Sunday I got a phone call with some very bad news. My biological father had committed suicide. This has left me with some very mixed emotions that have been hard to deal with.
My parents divorced when I was 3 or 4, and my mom then married my (step) dad who was in the Navy so we moved a lot, and my dad officially adopted me and I haven’t seen my biological father since then. It didn’t really bother me at all. My dad did a good job of raising me and as far as I was concerned my biological father had walked out on me so I had no real connection with him. Growing up I didn’t hate or love him, wasn’t angry or upset or anything else, I just felt indifference; he was nothing more than a stranger on the street to me.
Two years ago God put it on my heart that I needed to contact him, so I did. We had a couple of good emails and facebook messages back and forth, ending with him saying he wanted to catch up on what he missed.
One day after another went by and got busy with life, I fully intended to keep in touch with him and wanted to meet him one day. But I just never got around to sending the emails that were on my mind to send.
And now it is too late.
Plague of the “What If”s
Anybody who is affected by the death of someone who committed suicide is plagued with the mental agony of asking “what if” all of the time. Talking to his wife I heard a few of these questions. “What if I would have done something different? Why did I not see that he was acting different? What could I have done differently to prevent this?” Until now I never fully understood the pain caused by such questions.
What would have happened if I had contacted him recently? How much would it have meant from him to get an email or phone call saying “happy father’s day” from his only (not-adopted) son that he has not seen in 24 years? Would things have turned out differently if we had made plans to meet so he could meet me and his only grandson? I can’t help but think that things would have been different… if I had just …. If I had just taken 10 seconds out of my day to send an email saying “Hey, I was thinking about you, how have you been?”
Someone told me even if I had talked to him then I would just be asking what if I had said things differently or talked more often… I guess he is right that the plague just never ends, no matter what you wish you would have said. But as we are creatures with free will I believe we can affect our futures, and the futures of those we interact with. Which means what I did in the past could have prevented this altogether.
Eternal Destination Reached
I do not know for sure if my biological father is spending eternity in heaven, or in hell. But the very thought that he could be in hell right now made hell a little more real to me.
I know this is a very touchy subject, but a very real one that needs to be covered. Our society, our own human nature, is convinced that almost everyone except the most hardened criminals are going to heaven. When is the last time you went to a funeral service where they did not talk about the deceased person “being in a better place” or “watching from above” or some other saying which implies that the person is for sure in heaven?
We really want to believe everyone gets to heaven, especially those who have done nice things for us, those who have really touched our lives in some meaningful way, and those we love. But that is not reality.
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. – Matthew 7:13-14
I cannot say how much I hope my biological father had a relationship with Jesus and is now in heaven worshipping God, but my hopes do not give salvation, only him having a relationship with Christ.
The thought that he could be in hell right now, that the instant after he died he could have waken up in hades, being eternally tormented by hades itself and by the realization that he spent his life rejecting God, the one who created him. Every time we sin we are offending God, we are doing wrong to Him, hurting Him. Even after we continuously reject God with every aspect of our lives He sent His son to die in our place so that we could be restored and have a relationship with Him.
God did all of this for us and many of us, most of us, do not care one bit. We just keep rejecting God. Hell will be a rude and painful awakening for way too many people. And it will last for all eternity.
Do you understand how long an eternity is? Someone who goes to hell today, will still be there in 20 years. When I reach 50 years old that person will still be there, being tortured by the agony of hell and the lake of fire, and tortured even more so by their conscious with the regret that they lived their few short years of life rejecting God and living in sin and just living for themselves.
If my biological father did not have a relationship with God then when my son is 50 years old, he will still be in hell, still be in agony, and it will just be the beginning.
I do not say this to bring shame to his name, or to tear down his character — because as I said I do not know for sure what his relationship was — but I say this because just the thought that he might be in hell brought all of this to my mind and it disturbed me.
I say it as a warning, to all of you. You do not know how much longer you have to live. You do not know how much longer those you know will live for. I wanted to have a conversation with my biological father about his relationship with God. I thought I had time. I thought I could send off an email any day I wanted to, so there was no rush to send it off today.
I was wrong. The last possible day for me to contact him came, and passed right by without any warning, and I forever missed a great opportunity to lead a man to Christ.
That is a huge lie that Satan plants in us all. We think we all have more time when really we are all just a vapor that could fade away at any instant.
James 4 says
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:13-14)
Do not delay one more day! Right now, make sure that you have repented and have a relationship with God! Make sure that you are not living the life of a hypocrite, pretending to be a Christian because you go to church every week but in your heart you deny God the throne of your heart.
Do not delay one more day in righting relationships that have been strained, do not wait to share the gospel with those God brings into your life. Do not wait one more day to repent of those sins you know you are living in. Start living for God today because you may not have a chance to tomorrow. If you do not want to repent of your sin today because you do not want to give it up, then my heart breaks for you. That you would choose to continue rejecting God, why? So you can look at pornographic pictures on the internet? So you can keep feeding that addiction of alcohol or gambling? Sin leaves you a broken empty shell. Sin promises riches and pleasure but leaves you emptiness and worthless junk.
Choosing to live in sin over choosing to live for God is like denying a feast because you want this candy bar that is right here in front of you now. It smells really good and makes your mouth water, so you say you don’t need a feast, you just have the candy bar. So you follow the trail of candy bars that lead you farther away from the feast, further from God. Only to wake up with realization one day that what you really have been eating and enjoying is a chocolate covered dog turd.
It is at that point that you realize how nasty sin really is that you want to go dive into an ocean to clean out that nasty taste in your mouth, which you thought just a day before was delicious.
God is offering you something so much better than what sin can offer you, stop choosing your sin over God, put down the chocolate covered dog crap and run to Jesus who will clean you of all the nastiness your sin left on you, and he will happily welcome you into his banquet hall to feast.
Hell is a real place, and it is a sad truth that so many will go there, not because they deserve it more than me or any other person alive, for we, I, fully deserve hell. But they go because they refuse to accept the forgiveness Christ offers us when we turn our lives over to Him.
It took this tragic death to make eternity a reality for me, don’t wait for the same thing to happen to you. Repent, today. Restore those relationships that have bridges burned down, share the gospel with those you can influence in your life.
Nothing else in all of eternity matters.