How Can I Know If My Faith Is Real?

Question from a Reader:

I’m worried because I don’t know if my faith is genuine. I have chosen to accept Christ’s forgiveness, and I have asked Him to be Lord of my life, but sometimes I have to ask myself why I am doing so. I read some of your articles that state that God does not want us to come to Him out of fear of Hell, but He wants a genuine relationship with us. That’s when I worry that my relationship with God might not be genuine, because I certainly do not want to go to Hell.

I pray for God to put the right motives in my heart, and touch me emotionally, but even my motivations for doing that might not be genuine. I want to have assurance of my salvation, but when I look into my heart, I start to worry about my motives, which drags me down and hinders my faith. I also feel like I might be losing my interest and attraction to God, but I’m trying not to. Could the enemy be using deep psychology to make me doubt my salvation?

Answer from Doreen Button, EPM staff:

Thank you for your honesty about your quest to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus. My brain did those same gymnastics for years, so I think I understand your concerns. I see a couple of comments that may hold the key to freedom for you:

The first is, “I pray for God to put the right motives in my heart, and touch me emotionally.” In Psalm 37:4 David wrote, “Find your delight in Yahweh and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Now the Psalms are not law, they are poetry, but they are also God-inspired, and in this case, come from the heart of a man whose heart chased after God. Because of that, I take this verse as a firm principle to live by. We make our Christian walk too complicated…Jesus said to love God first and love others. That’s one simple—though not always easy—rule with two parts. We can’t do the second well until we do the first.

So love God. You won’t do it perfectly. And you wouldn’t do it at all (or even want to) if you didn’t belong to Him. Then trust God to implant the desires in your heart that He wants you to have. And once you’ve done that, relax and bask in His love and care for you.  When you’re tempted to let your thoughts lead you astray into dark and confusing places, ask God for help and go to His Word. Start doing what Paul instructs in Philippians 4:4-9: “The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything. Instead, pray about everything, and with thanksgiving bring your requests to God. And His peace, which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Jesus. Finally, spend your time thinking on what’s true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy…and God’s peace will be with you.” (Did you notice that all those things we’re to think about—instead of what we worry about—all describe God? Not a coincidence.)

And second, “When I look into my heart, I start to worry about my motives, which drags me down and hinders my faith.” Of course that’s what happens when you turn your focus inward! We are continuously tempted to turn our spiritual eyeballs inward, so our own thoughts and feelings orbit around us and our worries instead of letting God be our gravitational pull. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Now this may be some prophetic hyperbole, but knowing how my mind and heart work, I think it’s spot on. God is, and always should be, the focus of our thoughts. And here we circle back to delighting in Him and also consciously turning our thoughts to “what’s true, honorable, right, pure…” etc.

The way God made you is unique. He gave you challenges, and also gifts, unlike anyone else’s on this planet. And He also made you in His image, along with the responsibility and choice to keep facing Him so you can live out that image. Again, you will not do it perfectly, no matter how much you’d like to. But He wants you to give Him your heart and trust Him to perfect you over time. David also wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Notice this: David knew he couldn’t fix himself. So he asked the One who could, would, and wanted to, to do it for him.

Trust only God’s Word and His promises, not your own thoughts and emotions. (Read and “do” Proverbs 3:5-6.)

If we didn’t struggle, we wouldn’t become more like Jesus; we’d stay just as we are. But based on everything you’ve written, I believe you want to be like Him and be with Him. And you will be when you’re done with this trial run here on the old earth and join Him on the New Earth where you’ll be truly free to be who He made you to be and where you’ll enjoy His company forever. No more doubts. No more spinning and tumbling thoughts. Just Peace.

Can’t wait to meet you there!

Photo: Unsplash

Doreen is part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and helps Randy with editing and answering reader questions. She is a certified biblical counselor.