When the Feeling of Salvation Fails Us
By Gary Henry
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior” (Titus 1:1–3).
Feelings are important, but they are not infallible. If our feelings are based on erroneous thoughts, those feelings will be inappropriate. So the constant challenge in life is to make sure our thoughts (and our actions) are based on truth and not on fiction.
As indicated in the text above, the hope of eternal life rests on the promise of God. (What Paul says about it here is similar to what Peter said in 1 Peter 1:3–5.) And dependence on God’s promise is the main component of faith — the decision to trust His promise.
Since life can be a hard business, there are times when we won’t “feel” forgiven. What should we do at such times? We should go back to the Scriptures. It is only in the Scriptures that we will find a dependable, objective assessment of our relationship to the Lord.
Looking into the Scriptures, we may find that having accepted God’s salvation on His terms, our hope in Him is wellfounded. Despite our feelings, we must count on the dependability of what God has said.
But looking into the Scriptures, we may find that we are not, in fact, in a right relationship with the Lord. In that case, we need to repent and seek His forgiveness. When Paul said, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5), he raised the possibility that some of his brethren in Corinth might not have as secure a relationship with Christ as they thought they had.
Either way, the Scriptures need to be our guide. Our feelings may err on the high side or the low side, but the only reliable basis for our confidence is God’s promise. And never forget: the only thing we know about God’s promise is what we find in the Scriptures. Someone asked Luther, “Do you feel that you have been forgiven?” He answered: “No, but I’m as sure as there’s a God in heaven. For feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving; My warrant is the Word of God, naught else is worth believing…” (Martin Luther)