My stepfather passed away unexpectedly and I feel extremely guilty for not reaching out beforehand and trying to save his soul.
He "raised" me, but love from my stepfather was never shown. I don't remember him ever telling me he loved me and only twice telling me he was proud of me. I walked on eggshells all my life around him. While I'm sure our family enjoyed good times, I always had an anxious feeling ever being around him. I was worried about messing up and getting yelled at or in trouble. He was mentally abusive for sure. Everything I did was questioned and what he wanted was never explained.
He was physically abusive to my mother during the years I grew up and well into my adult years. I continued dreading to visit him and would make sure to visit my mom when I knew he would be at work.
A few years ago, he called me, cursing and yelling because I talked to my mom about how I felt, and he had something to say about it. I decided I could not tolerate his presence anymore. Since that day, I refused to be around him. My thoughts were never Christ-like about him. I disliked his treatment of my mother. I told my mother, if he wanted a relationship with me, he would need to seek it and apologize or at least change his ways and not mistreat people like that anymore. She responded, "Well you know him, he's not going to do that." He didn't change and I didn't want the same things to keep happening.
I am a faithful Christian and a lot of sermons and Bible study had urged something in me to reach out to him. But I would fight that within myself because of the history and my fear of him. I feel extremely guilty for my avoidance of him and now knowing I didn't save him. Now all opportunity is gone. I keep picturing him in torment and my heart physically hurts because maybe I could have prevented it had I sucked up my own feelings and continued being nice.
So I am left to ask, have I been living sinfully with my treatment towards him? Am I to blame that he was still lost? I felt so unworthy of being in worship, thinking I should have been kicked out. I feel so extremely guilty and ashamed. My husband says I didn't do anything wrong, but I feel so responsible that he died unsaved.
I really appreciate your time more than you know! I understand you are not a counselor, but I know you give straight Scripture and that is why I seek your answer.
Thank you so very much.
Your guilt comes because you imagine that you might have made a difference. But you don't know this. From what you've told me, he was very effective in cutting off any communication. Most parents have difficultly receiving advice from their own children, and your stepfather strikes me as someone who would have greater difficulty than most. He chose his life and, thus, he chose the consequences of that life.
For all his faults, he did manage to raise a daughter who serves the Lord. For certain, he could have done better, but I mention this because we tend to see people in black and white. No one is totally good and no one is totally evil. Therefore, we need to overcome our own tendencies. It would do you good, as an exercise, to list out some of the good things that he managed to do in his life.
In regards to the past and not speaking to him about the gospel, it is very likely that you would not have made a difference. You are not responsible for his behavior (Ezekiel 18:20). From what I know of God, I'm positive he received over his lifetime many warnings to improve, which he did not take heed to. Perhaps it could be argued that you should have at least tried, but the thing is, it is in the past and the past cannot be changed.
There are numerous occasions that I look back at and wonder if I had said or done something different would things have turned out better. The simple answer is that I have no idea. However, I use my past to improve my future. As I've gotten older, I realize how short life really is. I take more risks in approaching people because my past has shown me that I might not get another chance. I am sure even when I get very old, there will still be things that I will want to improve about myself, but that is just the way life is.
Not one of us is perfect. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us" (I John 1:10). All of us have things we regret in our past. For these, we acknowledge our mistakes (I John 1:9; 2:1) and move on to become better.
I'm not saying that you having the courage to speak to your stepfather would have made a difference. Nor do I know if God would look at the situation and say you didn't do what you should have done. But don't wallow in the past. What I want you to see is that if you think you could have done better, then use that situation as motivation to do better in the future. God judges us based on who we are and not on who we used to be (Ezekiel 18:21-36).