Some time ago, I received the following appeal from a friend:
Would you have time to talk with my daughter? I stayed up till 3:00 this morning with her discussing whether she is saved or not. This has been a recurring talk for years, and I have nothing left to tell her. I thought you might have some counsel for her. Thank you!
Here’s what I shared with this parent. I should say that I know this family personally, and have seen what appear to be evidences of saving faith in this teenage daughter. My response would have been nuanced differently if this evidence didn’t exist. I hope these thoughts are helpful to you, as well.
I think these kinds of doubts are more common than some would imagine, particularly in those who have grown up in Christian homes or who are constitutionally more introspective.
In my experience, this is an issue where “over-talking” often proves to be counter-productive. It can actually intensify the doubts and the mental, spiritual, and emotional confusion and torment.
In the long run, I have found it helpful to divert the focus away from the doubter and the doubts and focus instead on Christ and His Word. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Over time, I have seen the Word dispel doubts and bring assurance of salvation—or conviction of sin and lostness.
I’m not sure there is anything I could say to your daughter that you have not already said. Ultimately, only the Spirit can give light, peace, and assurance. Unless you think there is valid reason for her to doubt her salvation, I would tend to say, “Don’t focus on that at this point; instead, seek the Lord and let Him minister grace to you through His Word. Keep your heart open to whatever He shows you—but focus on Him and His redeeming work, and let His Spirit apply it to your heart.”
The very fact that she is wrestling with this may be an evidence that she is a child of God—a lost person is not likely to care this much about the condition of her heart. But I know this is not a sufficient answer for some—ultimately, nothing anyone says can give faith and assurance—that has to come from the Spirit.
One trap I see a lot of people fall into who were raised in Christian homes is to be plagued by doubts of whether what they did was sufficient—did I believe enough? Repent enough? Pray right? Was I sincere? We have to keep reminding them (and ourselves) that our salvation is not based on anything we have done—but ALL, ALL, ALL on what Christ has done for us. Ours is to rest in that.
It is not our faith or our repentance that saves us—it is all and only His grace, His sacrificial death on our behalf. Our repentance is merely the evidence that His Spirit has opened our eyes and wrought that grace in our hearts; our faith is the means by which we reach out and apprehend that which He has given and done for us.
I would encourage her to read some of Elyse Fitzpatrick’s recent books: Because He Loves Me, Counsel from the Cross, and Comforts from the Cross. Elyse does a good job of focusing on the objective work of Christ on our behalf and what difference that makes in our lives.
May the Lord give you much wisdom and grace as you continue to shepherd your children’s hearts.