I'm demonstrably saved, but it doesn't feel it

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: I believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I also believe that God gives salvation by Grace alone and not by works. I believe that Jesus was crucified on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. I believe in Scripture and hold it dearly to my heart. I do not desire sin or the things of this world, and when I lose my focus off God, I’m not satisfied because my only satisfaction comes from Christ.

That being said, I’ve been saved for five years… yet I find myself questioning my salvation. I’m not sure if I’m getting myself confused with things I’m misunderstanding about myself… or Scripture… or if I’m simply not saved… but I’m asking for help!

I’ve already gone to brothers and sisters who have been saved a long time and who know their Bibles well, and they tell me that — judging by the fruit they see in me — there is no reason to assume that I’m not saved. Nevertheless, I can’t stop questioning myself and my salvation. Can you help me, please?

Answer: Greetings sister. Thank you for touching down with us at Mainsail Ministries — and thank you for submitting such an honest question. It seems that you’ve done your homework, too… checking in with some knowledgeable believers. That’s due diligence — which I appreciate… so I pray we can help you get to the bottom of this because I too believe you are saved.

Let me say right off the bat that you have found a sympathetic ear in me. I’ve been a Christian for nearly fifty years — and I’ve been at it pretty hard! But in spite of the fact that I have spent much of that time in study, prayer and service… sometimes I just don’t feel saved.

Now, I too hold to all the orthodox Christian doctrines, and people who know me will testify that I have produced fruit in my family, my church — and even around the world! So, what’s missing? … I mean… considering that we Christians are eternally secure in Christ (Romans 8:1), I should be doing back-handsprings continually!

But life doesn’t work that way. My emotional life does not always track with what my Christian bona fides allow for and encourage. Sometimes I am “off” spiritually — and occasionally in such a way that I question my own salvation. So, what’s missing? Why don't I feel saved?

Well… any number of things are missing… like Heaven! Like our glorified bodies (Philippians 3:20-21).  Like the absence of sin! Like Jesus Christ physically reigning! Like the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1). The problem is we only have one foot in heavenly places. The other one is firmly in the world… so it’s no wonder we experience spiritual cognitive dissonance from time to time.

Here’s the thing: we believers experience the same hills and valleys as do unbelievers — and health and financial well-being come quickly to mind. But there are others. We are also emotional creatures… and our emotions go up and down. We are also spiritual creatures… and our faith goes up and down. But with faith, it is not so simple because our faith can rise and fall in a number of areas.

For example, I occasionally find myself doubting something so basic as the existence of God. Other times it might be the veracity of Scripture or our insistence that we cannot work our way to heaven. Somedays I have a “good” God-day… and somedays I despair of the Christian enterprise altogether! But here I stand.

As you can see, you’re not alone. And since I am addressing you today as a fellow saved sufferer, let me give you some advice.

First, give yourself permission to doubt everything you think you know. You won’t fall off the edge of faith or of knowledge or of life… and beating yourself up over how you honestly feel in a given moment will do more damage than just being patient with those feelings.

Second, since these feelings are cyclical, the trick is to ride out the storm. Never act on how you feel when you’re in a trough. Satan would love it if you made some permanent moves during a temporary low point! The simple act of not acting is an act of practical faith… one that will serve you well. It’s also one that will serve those whom you serve… and unless I’m missing something, that is why we are here.

Peter was beside himself when Jesus began to wash his feet (John 13:1-17). His heart was in the right place, of course… he just didn’t have the big picture. Sure… Jesus was giving his disciples a lesson in humble service, but he was also teaching them about salvation.

Peter didn’t know this, however, so he balked when Jesus came to wash his feet. Jesus said to him, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” — and Peter would have none of that! So Peter said — and I assume he said this as a second attempt to take the insult out of the feet washing — “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Then Jesus said, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.”  Here, he was talking about salvation.

We Christians are redeemed people, so we are clean in the main… but the world soils our feet. Sometimes that soil comes in the form of lying or cheating… and sometimes it shows up as a lack of confidence in the truths we know very well. This is the soil you and I seem to collect… so do what I do: let Jesus wash your feet. Then, get back in the game.

You see, we are clean in the main; we are not at all like those who haven’t yet been washed in the regenerative blood of Christ… no matter how we feel about that truth.

Even though I know all this, the occasional wave of doubt still washes over me — so note this well. There is a huge difference between feeling saved and being saved. Feeling saved is an emotional state — one that is definitively temporary — while being saved is an ontological state — one that is definitively permanent (John 1:12; 5:24, Romans 8:1).

Ontology simply trumps feelings… and I encourage you to revisit this knowledge when you enter those seasons of self-doubt.

I pray that this has encouraged you… and I will pray for your courage!

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20190812 Why don’t I feel like I’m saved?).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)