Living in Terror

A sincere lady lives in terror because she fears that she is lost and cannot find peace of mind.
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

No narration available

A sincere woman has written asking for help. We offer the following hope based on our confidence in God’s Word.

“Can you possibly help me? No matter what I do, I cannot shake the feeling that I am lost. I cannot convince myself that God loves me and that I can be forgiven of my sins. I live in depression almost constantly. Sometimes I don’t want to live, but I am horrified of dying. What can I do to find peace of mind?”

With the contrite attitude that you obviously have, you are not far from obtaining the relief that you desire so much. Let me offer the following for your reflection.

There Is Hope for You

It is clear that you have experienced the devastation of sin in your life. When we sin, real psychological effects inflict pain on our hearts. This mental turmoil and chaos arise because we know we have violated the moral and religious sensitivity God places within every person’s heart (Rom. 2:14-16).

Whatever wholesome teaching you may have received in your earlier life is a part of your psychological makeup, and when you violate that conscience to any degree, you suffer. It is perfectly understandable, therefore, that you might be distraught.

But the fact that you feel legitimate guilt is in your favor. You have not so hardened your heart that you are virtually unreachable. You want out of this distressful maze of confusion, which is a wonderful attitude.

To make progress, there are several things that I need to say to you, and I know that you will realize that I have only your spiritual interests at heart.

God Is Not Your Enemy; He Loves You

Obviously, you believe in God and must be commended for that. Far too many people in today’s world walk away from God in their minds as the first option in their spiritual frustration. Thankfully, you have not done this. Your perception of God, however, needs some adjustment.

God is a being of absolute love (1 Jn. 4:8). Ideally, therefore, he does not want anyone to be lost (2 Pet. 3:9). He would love for every person to be saved by coming to who he really is and understanding the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).

The intensity of his love was supremely demonstrated in the gift of his Son (Jn. 3:16). Jesus died for us, even while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). In view of these passages (and numerous others), no one should ever think that the Creator does not love him or her. Therefore, a part of the remedy for your problem lies in your need to understand and appreciate the Lord’s love for you.

Do You Trust His Word?

It should be apparent, however, that merely citing passages will not be very meaningful if you do not have confidence in the integrity of the Holy Scriptures. If you do not believe that God is supplying you with valid information by means of the biblical record, how can these documents possibly provide you with the peace and tranquility of the soul for which you long?

This means that you must seriously examine the evidence that can be gathered in support of the Scriptures’ claim that these writings actually reflect God’s revealed will (see 2 Tim. 3:16-17). We cannot supply that evidence in this brief response, of course, but we have publications available (both on this website and in printed works) that abundantly support the authenticity of the sacred documents.

Are You Ready to Let Go and Trust Him?

Once you become convinced of the Bible’s veracity and embrace the fact that God really loves you and desires your welfare, you will be ready to proceed. You then will be able to trust and follow the simple method by which you can know that you have obtained forgiveness of all your past sins and that you have the thrilling hope of eternal life.

What Does Trust Look Like?

It is critical that you have an honest heart when you examine the Scriptures. You must want to find the truth and be willing to search for it (Jn. 7:17; Acts 17:11). This is one way that God tests your sincerity.

When the honest and sincere student examines the evidence regarding Jesus Christ in the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), he will be compelled to arrive at the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of Old Testament prophecy. This establishes the basic foundation you must accept: Christ is God’s Son who died to remedy the human sin problem.

There are many lines of information that point to this conclusion. The supernatural nature of his birth (corroborated by the testimony of a physician — Lk. 1:26ff; Col. 4:14). The Savior’s miracles, designed to prove his identity (Jn. 20:30-31), were acknowledged even by his enemies (Mt. 12:24; Jn. 11:47). The empty tomb, following his death, is inexplicable on naturalistic grounds. Therefore, it is possible to come to a strong conviction that the first-century Jesus is God’s Son based upon solid biblical evidence.

Once that plateau is achieved, the believer must be sincerely willing to trust the Lord and be eager to follow his instruction to receive pardon. This involves turning away from the deliberate practice of sin. This action, called “repentance,” reflects a sorrow for transgressions committed and a resolution to cease sinful activity as much as is humanly possible (Lk. 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; 17:30).

In addition, those who would identify with Christ must be willing to confess him as Lord publicly (Mt. 10:32; Rom. 10:10; 1 Tim. 6:12).

Finally, there is the matter of baptism, which is designed to identify the believer with the Lord’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4). Baptism is a controversial issue with many in the larger community of “Christendom.” There are several facts about biblical baptism that must be recognized by those seeking God’s pardon according to the plan he set in operation.

First, the rite is an immersion in water (Acts 8:38-39; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). Neither the sprinkling nor pouring of water upon the candidate constitutes true baptism.

Second, the command to be immersed is only for those who are capable of believing the gospel (Mk. 16:16) and who have the ability to repent of their personal sins (Acts 2:38). Thus, infants are excluded. Therefore, anyone sprinkled as an adult or as an infant must submit to Christian baptism personally and properly.

Third, the purpose for which one is to be immersed is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; cf. 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). To go through the ritual for some other reason represents a failure to do what the Scriptures specifically require for Christian baptism.

To submit to this plan, therefore, in all its beauty and power, embraces the assurance that eternal life is in your possession. You do not need to doubt or even wonder about the matter any further. God’s word is sure, and humbly submitting to his plan should produce confidence and peace in your heart.

What Happens If I Mess Up?

However, even the child of God must realistically recognize that he cannot live perfectly above sin permanently. You will slip through weakness, time and again. However, you do not need to become enslaved to the fear of being lost when you fail. God is anxious to forgive you as you rise from your transgression and struggle again for a holy life.

Only when you quit trying and throw up your hands in despair, making no further attempt to learn, grow, and serve God will you slip back into that state of being lost. Unfortunately, some teach that you can never be lost no matter how deeply you regress from the truth. That simply is not the case. Read for yourself Galatians 5:4 and 2 Peter 2:1.

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace (Gal. 5:4).

For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them (2 Pet. 2:21).

In the first passage, Paul warns Christians who would pervert the gospel would be severed from Christ and fall away from grace. In the second passage, Peter warns that those who depart from the faith and turn back from God will receive greater punishment than if they had never known the way of righteousness.

Those warnings aside, the problem with some people is this.

Some People Have a Difficult Time Accepting Forgiveness

Even though they intellectually know they have done what the Lord requires for salvation, and as blemished Christians, they fervently pray and strive to live right, they cannot rid themselves of feeling “lost.”

What is the problem? It is one of trust. They have not yet learned to take God at his word and cast their cares upon him (1 Pet. 5:7). They really do not believe that he will do as he has said. They keep waiting for some spiritual zap directly from Heaven which they believe will fill them with utter tranquility of soul. They wait in vain.

No “magical” Holy Spirit outpouring will administer a spiritual “shock” treatment that removes all your guilt and fear.

Perhaps no man was more dedicated to Christ than Paul, the apostle. But even he agonized over his weaknesses at times. Read Romans 7:18-24.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

He had haunting memories of those Christians he had persecuted with such vigor (Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:16). Yet, on balance, he lived the joyful life (Phil. 4:4) because he knew that Christ’s grace “abounded exceedingly” above his history of flaws.

What Is the Remedy?

The remedy, therefore, is this. Let God speak to you profusely daily through his written revelation, the sacred Scriptures. Study the lives of great Bible characters who made their own share of mistakes, but also note their triumphs. The life of David is remarkable in this regard. Read good literature from those who have studied the Bible much longer than you have. Receive their scriptural counsel with gladness.

Then, learn to communicate often with your Father in prayer. Speak to him reverently and as the Friend that he is. Tell him of your fears and heartaches. If you feel inadequate in conveying your feelings, remember that the Spirit of God will help you in this time of need (Rom. 8:26).

Finally, try to develop close bonds with stronger Christians who will help you in times of distress. You can make it if you really want to, and you “strive” to do so (Lk. 13:24). It may take time, perhaps years, but the destiny is well worth the effort.