Do you even notice how often in Scripture God has to reassure his people? He’s constantly saying things like, “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.” Variations of “don’t be afraid” are often cited as the most frequently repeated command in all of Scripture. God tells us over and over that we don’t need to be afraid or anxious, and yet we persist.
I have lately battled anxiety over spiritual security. Sure, I believe and I want to follow Jesus, but do I love him enough? Am I really following, or am I deceiving myself? Will God really save me? Does he really want to save people, or he kind of reluctant about the whole thing? What about those times when Jesus talks about the gate being narrow, and people being surprised when he says he never knew them? What if that happens?
Scripture does tell us to test whether we are in the faith, and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. So there is a time to put serious thought into making sure we have truly repented and turned to Jesus, and making sure that our daily lives are keeping in step with him. But if you know that you are trusting him for your salvation, there is nothing in Scripture that suggests anxiety over salvation should have power over you. Rather it says we can approach the throne of grace with confidence. Confidence! We can have confidence that when we come to God for grace, he will grant it.
Those anxieties can be stubborn, though, so we need to remember what is true of God’s character in times when we are fearing that he will not have salvation for us or struggling to trust his promises. Here are seven truths from Scripture to hold tightly to in times of fear.
1. God’s desire is to be merciful to his children.
How different this is from us humans, whose desire is take revenge and get the spoils for ourselves. But not God. His desire is to pour out mercy. Scripture says he longs to be merciful to his people, even when they have sinned (Isaiah 30:18); his mercies never come to an end and are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23); he is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4); he is patient with us, wanting all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). We fear that God’s mercy will run out for us, that he will one day be fed up or bored and walk away from us, or that he saves us begrudgingly, out of obligation. This is not the God of the Bible. He is overflowing in mercy for his children and waits for opportunities to give it to us. If you are questioning God’s mercy, meditate on how he pours out his mercy on his children in Scripture.
2. God’s nature is to give.
“For God so loved the world that he gave…” I fear that God is stingy with salvation or with his other gifts, that I have to be really good to get something from him. But the Father has always been giving his love to the Son, and he loved us and gave us the Son so that we would be saved. God is the greatest giver. He owns all of creation, he could do anything he wanted, and he chose to give himself sacrificially to us. This is not a God who withholds himself vindictively from those who seek him. If you are fearful that God will withhold salvation from you, meditate on how deeply giving is embedded in his character.
3. God has given us his Holy Spirit as a promise.
Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” God so wants us to be confident in our salvation that he gave us himself as a guarantee! If you’re struggling to rest in God’s saving work, reflect on how the Spirit has been working in you. How has he convicted you? What sins is he helping you to overcome? How is he softening your heart toward others? How has he moved you to worship? How is he opening your eyes to understand Scriptures? Ask a close friend to share ways that he or she sees the Spirit teaching you. The Spirit’s work is a sure confirmation that God has an inheritance for you.
4. God has promised to save those who call on him for his own name’s sake.
Scripture says that God saves “for his name’s sake,” meaning that he has a stake in the game. If God were not to save, he would somehow not be as glorified. The verses above from Ephesians says that our being saved is “to the praise of his glory.” In the Old Testament, when God makes a covenant with Abraham, a key component of his redemption plan, he swears by himself that he will uphold his covenant. So God doesn’t just desire to save us – he has put his own glory up as collateral in his salvation commitment. Scripture says God is not like a man, that he should lie. He keeps his word completely. God does not give us a flimsy salvation offer but a promise that is insured by his own great glory. If you are worried that God will not keep his promise to you, study the places in Scripture where God ties his own glory to our salvation.
5. God will alert us when we are not following him.
In Philippians 3:14, Paul says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” The Psalms speak about God teaching sinners his ways, the Proverbs about his directing our paths. If you are worried that God is secretly holding a big sin over your head, even though you’ve repented and asked him to reveal any waywardness to you, stop. God doesn’t store up our sins and then spring punishment on us for his own amusement. He graciously reveals sin to us and teaches us to follow him. You don’t need to worry that he will let you wander off the path and then reject you. (Or, as a sage older woman put it to me, “Aubrey, sometimes you just have to let that go.” People have got to stop telling me that … I mean, working on it!)
6. God doesn’t stir up confusion and anxiety to communicate with his children.
Know who does? Satan. Satan first interacted with humans by creating confusion and doubt around God’s words. God is always consistent in his message and character. If you are feeling doubt or anxiety around one of God’s promises, that fear is almost certainly not coming from God himself. God tells us not to be anxious, but to trust him and to take refuge in him. Satan attacks God’s children, and one of his methods is in creating doubt around God’s words. If he can’t turn you away from faith in Jesus, he will at least try to keep you from experiencing the joy and peace that Jesus offers. Ask God to help you trust his promises more than Satan’s lies, and refuse to bow to this fear.
While we’re on the topic of Satan…
7. Satan accuses the saints before God day and night, but Jesus sits at the right hand of God interceding for the saints.
You find these truths in Revelation 12:10 and 8:4. If you are trusting Christ, Satan is accusing you before the Lord, bringing all your sin out before him. It is so easy to feel the accusation for our sin and be overwhelmed, thinking that this sin is too ugly or too shameful for God to touch. But this thinking is the work of the devil, not of God. Jesus, after having accomplished the work on salvation on the cross, is now seated at the right hand of the Father, refuting every accusation of guilt against us. Satan will never surprise God with such a zinger of your sin that he will decide to undo the work of the cross for you. Jesus’s work right now, as he intercedes, is to defend us from Satan’s accusations and ensure that nothing gets in the way of God’s grace for his redeemed people. If you feel accused, remember that God’s way is to convict and then to restore, not to beat you down (2 Corinthians 7:10).
These are just some truths that I have held to in times of wrestling with spiritual anxiety. How is God using his word to comfort you? Ultimately, remember that as your Father, God wants to help you. You can lay your anxiety before him and plead for his help. He loves for his people to call on him, and he will strengthen you and give you rest.