I recently received a question from someone struggling with assurance of their salvation. They were concerned because they didn’t “feel” the same inner experience that their Christian friends had described. As a result they doubted that they had the Holy Spirit and were saved, which led them to step back from church and prayer. They also wondered if such experiences could be trusted even if they had them, since people from other faiths claim to have those experiences and former Christians claim to have previously had them.
My response is below:
I can understand the struggle that you feel and my heart goes out to you as you are struggling through your faith. You say that your lack of assurance of your salvation has caused you to step back from church and from prayer. Since you haven’t had the feelings associated with the inner experience of the Holy Spirit, you are wondering if you are saved at all. You are also unsure of what to make about the claims to divine experiences made by adherents to opposing worldviews and former Christians.
I am very concerned that you said you stepped back from church and from prayer. This is just what you should not do! It is during crisis that we should draw near to God, not pull away from him. Your struggle is very common and I think you may have associated experience of God with emotional feelings. Our emotions are anything but stable, they will rise and fall throughout our lives. We should not mistake our own feelings with the Holy Spirit.
We should also not be overly concerned about the claims of other worldviews or apostates. Keep in mind that we do not have access to the internal experiences of others. We have no idea what they really experienced and they have no idea what we are experiencing. There just isn’t any way for us to compare those subjective experiences and say that they are comparable. It is for this reason that we should not base our hope or faith on such experiences.
Rather our faith should be based on the work of Christ. You are saved, not because you feel one way or another, but because Christ has accomplished your salvation on the cross. You do not need to manufacture an emotional response. He said, “It is finished,” and it was. So when you feel down or disconnected, remind yourself that regardless of how you feel, Jesus has died for you. God then raised him from the dead, providing victory over sin and death for you. We should not rely on emotion but rather we should rely on Christ in spite of emotion.
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