In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. We’ve previously learnt that Christians can have assurance that they are saved by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. We’ve also seen that Christians may not know that they are saved – they may lack assurance.
But can Christians lose the assurance that they enjoy and go back to doubting their salvation?
Yes. Christians may enjoy a period of assurance, but then find that their joy in the Lord is weakened.
The Bible has many examples of people who enjoyed the Lord’s presence only to find that he distanced himself from them for a time. The book of Job gives us a classic example in the man Job himself.
Psalm 77 also shares the cry of someone who has experienced the affection of God, yet no longer feels that God loves him:
‘1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.
3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint. Selah
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days, the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Selah
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.’
The reason such a loss of God’s comfort can be for a number of reasons. It may be due to a change of emotions, an embracing of sinful behaviour, or struggles with different temptations. Sometimes God, in his wisdom, hides his face for a time and you just don’t know why.
But what are you to do in such a period of doubt and depression?
Do what the Psalmist did. Remember the Lord and meditate on his mighty deeds. Christians need to keep trusting in Christ even when they do not feel his abiding presence. They must remember that they are not saved by assurance that they belong to God. They are saved by faith in God.
Are you lacking assurance that you are saved? Do you remind yourself of God’s marvelous works and keep trusting in him regardless?