Almost a year to the day after becoming a Christian, I fell to a familiar sin that had ruled me prior to conversion. At that moment God’s presence vanished. I was left wondering if I had lost my salvation—if I had been saved in the first place. The looming cloud of lack of assurance of salvation had descended on me and would not lift for two agonizing years.
It has been seven years since that darkness subsided. Numerous graces kept me during that period, I now can see. And undergirding all of them was a single root: the Bible, God’s word. I lacked assurance; I fought for it. The Bible was my greatest weapon.
Three unique “uses” of the Bibleled me—in time—into the pastures of assurance and kept me close to the Shepherd’s side until I arrived there.
Personal use of the Bible
The Scriptures tell countless stories in which God bends down and binds up the wounds of those who suffer. It is right and good for saints who are going through their own terror-gauntlets to make very personal use of these stories. That’s one reason God gave them to us.
These stories invite you to consider: If God has met and comforted others in their suffering, perhaps he can and will do the same for me. The Bible overflows with verses that deal directly with issues of anxiety, depression, and spiritual malaise. God’s word offers a multiplicity of prayers of groaning by God’s people—prayers that are meant to be used by God’s people when their world is shrouded in darkness and they lack the words to cry out. The whole book of 1 John itself was written so that saints might be confident that their faith is genuine.
The Bible is a treasure trove of resources for the Christian fighting for assurance of salvation; we need only go to it and search them out.
But a lack of assurance of salvation produces a peculiar problem: a vicious cycle. You experience what seems to be God’s absence or you fall to a familiar sin → you question whether or not you even have saving faith → you open the Bible to find some kind of salve (or simply out of duty) → you come away not feeling how you ought to → your initial feelings of estrangement only intensify. Such a cycle can repulse sufferers from the very source of their salvation.
But this is exactly when the believer must fight to press into God’s word. For it is primarily in the Bible where God’s encouragement and comfort are found. This is the overarching theme of Psalm 119, that in God’s word are “delight” (vv. 24, 47, 77, 92, 143), “strength” (v. 28), “hope” (vv. 43, 49), “comfort” (v. 50, 52), “peace” (v. 165), and more.
In the Bible, God has given us countless weapons to fight for assurance. Though feelings may tell us otherwise, we must use this arsenal that was so graciously given to us. We must take hold of God’s word and scour it like the goldmine it is.
Others’ use of the Bible
Like a man wandering in the desert who happens upon a spring, only to be too exhausted to cup his hands and lift his head to drink—a believer can become so spiritually weak and exhausted that he fails to drink from the only source where refreshment is found. It is counterintuitive, even irrational, to know where water is found but to avoid drawing it out. But given the crushing cycle mentioned above, it is understandable as well; the flesh is weak.
This is where the second use of the Bible for assurance of salvation comes into play. Imagine the same scenario, a man dying of thirst but unable to drink from the spring right in front of him. Now what if that man had traveling companions? What if these companions pour the spring water into his mouth themselves?
Over the two dark years of the soul I went through, I can think of countless times that friends shared Scripture with me. Sometimes it was a simple text of encouragement with a scripture verse attached. Other times it was a link to a Bible-saturated sermon. Most often though it was in gathering with other Christians around the Bible in corporate worship and in smaller group settings where the Scriptures were fed to me when I did not have the strength to feed myself. These saints were usually unaware of my condition, and yet they gave me nourishment nonetheless.
This communal use of the Bible for assurance will require drawing others into your battle and asking them to shower you with Scripture through any and all means. It looks like regularly sitting under sound teaching and allowing the word preached to pour over your parched soul. It will occur by immersing yourself in small group settings where the word is read and treasured in community. Whatever it looks like for you, allowing other believers to use the Bible for your benefit is an integral part of finding assurance of your salvation.
God’s own use of the Bible
God the Spirit goes with his word. It would be vain to talk of my and others’ use of Scripture if God himself weren’t empowering its words. God himself uses his word to keep us and form us and, in time, to give us assurance.
Part of the struggle of assurance is feeling like nothing is happening because positive spiritual feelings are absent. But whether we are aware of it or not, God is always using the Bible to keep his children for himself. God is doing deep work within your soul when the words of the Bible are read by or to you. He is building sturdy foundations. He is intertwining you with his indwelling Spirit. While you “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”—in no small part by the use of the Bible personally and communally—“it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12–13).
Christian, take heart! It is not only you and others who are using the Bible for your assurance; the Triune God himself is using the Bible in and for you as well. He is authoring and perfecting your faith. He is bringing the work he began in you to completion. He is guarding you from falling. He is keeping you from stumbling. And he will not fail to “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24). He will do all this through the use of the Bible by yourself, others, and, most ultimately, himself. Rest assured.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of Bible Study Magazine. Slight adjustments, such as title and subheadings, may be the addition of an editor.
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