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Question and Answer

Struggling with Assurance of Salvation

Question:

I’ve been a member of my present church for maybe five years now. I cannot trust my pastor with this. I don’t know whom to trust with my doubts … I don’t “trust” God. I find it very difficult to humble myself. For years I’ve had doubts that I was predestined for salvation. I cannot make myself “have faith”! I have lost my assurance of salvation countless times. Each time is worse than the last. I thought changing churches would help. It did … for several years! But those old haunts have come back. And I cannot seem to shake my doubts this time. I feel completely lost. I don’t understand myself.

Answer:

I was quite moved by your plea for personal peace and assurance. I wish I could say the magic words that would bring everything into focus and settle your heart. I will certainly pray for you. The words I do have are found in Scripture. Psalm 42 is too long to quote in its entirety, but the last verse gives the tone: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Sounds like “the sons of Korah” pooled their collective struggles and asserted that they would “hang on” until the Lord lifted them out of their depression.

I get the strong impression you have discussed your struggles with people for whom you have or had at least a modicum of trust. I am glad you did but sorry that their attempts at encouragement left you frustrated. Pray for your pastor. He may have struggles every bit as challenging as yours.

It really is very important that you have some pastoral counseling. My fervent hope would be that you could establish a better relationship with your present pastor, which would enable you to unburden yourself to him and develop a climate of trust. The combination of private counseling sessions and his public exposition of the Word of God is the most natural means of addressing your needs. Before taking any other steps, I encourage you to pursue this course. Do not expect your pastor to be a mind reader. Tell him plainly that you need his help or that of another elder.

It would not surprise me to learn that there are other believers in your congregation that are going through similar trials. But most people keep these things private. Ask the Lord to bring you and another together.

If these efforts fail, then search for either another pastor who might be available to you, or for a professional biblical counselor. You might check the websites of the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD) or the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) as starting points to find information on counselors that serve your area. Most counseling organizations have both men and women on staff.

Almost all Christians have doubts and struggles. To fear that you are not saved or that you are not of the elect is daunting for us all. And you know only too well that such fears lead to depression. Some very well-known figures in Christian history suffered from what used to be called “melancholy.”

You must not let your feelings get the better of you. The truth of God’s unchanging love and care and of his sure Word stands stronger than our unreliable feelings. The hymn-writer Edward Mote said it well: “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace.” You are in a battle with the devil, and he seeks to play your feelings like a violin. Take a lesson from suffering Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15). Remember the words of the apostle Paul, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

There are at least three good articles on the “Assurance of Salvation” in our Q&A archive. Each one points to our great Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the last analysis he alone is our hope. Please avail yourself of these helpful insights.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

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