Comfort to a dying unbeliever

I hope this is an appropriate category to post my question in - am fairly new to this so I will gladly accept advice and direction :slight_smile:
My neighbour is an unbeliever. She is dying of cancer and is in the last stages. For years she has been quite an angry and bitter person, is difficult to get close to and has few friends - I think there must be much hurt and pain to have caused her to be this way.

I am so sad and so sorry for her and desperately want to offer her the comfort and the hope that we have in Jesus. Some months back I offered to pray with her and asked her if she believed there was more to our life than this earthly existence and if she had any faith - to which she stabbed her finger at the sky and disgustedly asked, “What, in HIM?”. When I said yes, she shook her head and walked away muttering. Her partner is atheist. And in fact most of the people in the community here are also atheist so there is little conversation about God and mostly I have heard people say “what a load of rubbish” it all is.

I have been able to have a few “deep and meaningful” conversations with her mother who is more open to talking about God and life after death but I would love to know how to crack Tina’s hard exterior. Or if I should even try at this stage? How can I sit by her death bed without saying something? What is the best way to approach it? I want to be respectful and understanding of who she is and what she believes - I don’t want to upset her or make her angry - but at the same time I am compelled to try and save her soul.

I really struggle with a deep sense of loss and heartbreak with such determined resistance to the things of God and the possibilities of a glorious eternal life with Him.

My mother-in-law passed away a few months ago - she was an atheist too. Over the years I had had several conversations with her about God and she was one who would always say “what a load of rubbish”. When she was dying, I went to her in her unconscious and unresponsive state and said that although I knew she did not believe in God etc I wanted to assure her that God still loved and cared about her and I wanted to read her Psalm 139. I began to read, and from an unconscious and unresponsive state, she slowly turned her head towards me, forced her eyes open slowly, and frowned at me! :smiley: She then turned her head to the other side and frowned at her nurse too! The nurse and I shared a smile and loved on my mother-in-law anyway. But it was quite a thing to see. Resisting God to the end.

Would love to hear some of your thoughts…

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Caroline; Just a gentle reminder first off. It is not you that will crack Tina’s hard exterior. That’s the Spirits job. But what you are doing is, I would say the best that you can do. You are being the hands and feet of Christ. And by praying and asking God to intervene who knows she may very well have her exterior cracked.

You are also right in suspecting that there is something in her past that is the root cause of her bitterness. That is often the case. Try slowly asking her questions about her past. Her childhood, school, friends and so on. Grab one thread at a time and see if you can unravel her story. As her story unfolds the answers to why may very well reveal themselves. Often times when people begin to open up and talk about their past those barriers and walls begin to fall. As they do opportunities to share about forgiveness and love, (even Christs love) open up.

I too am in the same position. I understand how he came to be in the position he is currently in. I have listened to the story of him watching his mom commit suicide, his broken marriage and so on. I want desperately for him to see that the answer to his emptiness and bitterness is Christ not in self pity or substance abuse. All I can do now is to, like you be the hands and feet of Christ. Not to condone his actions, but to be his friend. To help him stand when he falls. I sometimes wish that I could smack him upside the head and get him to see that which is plain to me. Sadly, it seems, that it is in his bitterness that he is most comfortable.

The unfortunate and often painful reality is that not everyone will accept Christ. Remember that even Christ when he was here (in plain sight) had people reject him. Your pain at the thought of your friend rejecting Christ is a mere reflection of the pain that Christ must have felt when he went to the cross.

I want to encourage you to Keep on, keeping on. Our God is an amazing God, who can and often does do things beyond what we ask. Keep praying, loving and listening. To both God and to Tina. It is the best that you can do. Then wait in expectation of what our awesome God will do.

In His Grip

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Thank you Philip - how right you are that it is only the Holy Spirit who can do the cracking. And how heavily I depend on our amazing Father God to do above and beyond what I can even think to imagine or ask - especially in those last moments before death.

Unfortunately Tina is unable to speak at this point so it will be difficult to even find a thread of her story, never mind unravel it…

Do you think it is appropriate to speak over her about forgiveness (both giving her forgiveness for wrongs that may have been done to her and accepting forgiveness for things she may have done) and the love of Christ, even when she can’t respond? If we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, does that not include speaking out about our understanding of the things of God, so that she can have the choice whether to believe it and accept it or not?

Recently, since she has been unable to speak, I have visited her a couple of times, and at the end of each visit asked her if I could pray with her - which she did accept - so perhaps her hard exterior has already been cracked and the light and love of Christ can maybe enter in.

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I just wanted to also encourage you as well for never giving up on Tina.

When you say unresponsive; are you talking verbally or completely unable to respond to you at all? I heard a story of someone accepting Christ at a very late stage; the minister held the hand of the person who wasn’t even able to open their eyes (and hadn’t been able to speak for many months) and asked ‘If you can hear me, squeeze my hand twice?’.

Then he went on to some simple and personal yes/no questions such as ‘Are you afraid of dying?’, (and asked the dying man to squeeze hand twice for yes, squeeze hand once for no) …

he was able to share the simple Gospel, about sin, justice, forgiveness, and how the required justice for our sin was settled by Christ; and if we would accept Him and His sacrifice on our behalf we will be saved. according to the account, this person did accept Christ, and confirmed to the minister that he had by a series of hand squeezes before heading out to eternity…

God bless you in your efforts… only eternity will show what will become of our simple sowing of the seeds of the Gospel…


I would say that praying out loud would be an awesome thing to do. I would agree with @matthew.western that even those that are unresponsive can and do accept Christ in the final stages before death. By hearing your prayers she may very well begin to understand the relationship that you have with your creator. Verbally thanking God for his forgiveness and also forgiving others would be a great example for Tina. As she hears about the freedom that comes from both forgiving and being forgiven she is hearing the gospel message. Pray that her heart would be open to accepting the forgiveness that Christ offers.

It’s a promising start when someone who has been hard begins to soften towards prayer and the gospel message. Be encouraged that God has heard your prayers and seen the tears that you have shed on behalf of your friend.


Thank you Matt
Tina is unable to respond verbally but she can squeeze my hand. Funnily enough while I was meditating on it all yesterday that is exactly what I thought I would ask her when I next see her “are you afraid of dying?” And communicate with simple yes/no questions and a squeezing of the hands…

God is good. Let it all work out for His glory🙏

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All I can add here is I’m praying from Peru, South America, in order to give her the clarity of seeing God’s love through you. Never underestimate the power of the Love of God (There is a song I remember “tu amor no se rinde!”) :slight_smile:

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Jesus said my yoke is easy my burden is light. You are to share the truth, in love, with a dose of salt. Then love them and let it go. You made the statement l need to save them, are to that effect. You, are l, can’t save anyone. We are not commanded to save, but to share truth, in love, with a dose of salt. You and I can loving do this and watch the Holy Spirit work. The end result is not up to us. We all have free wills. That’s how we rest in Jesus. We enter His rest. Knowing we’ve done all he asked us to do. :smiley:

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