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Jonathan Edwards in his diary often spoke of lacking assurance, wishing he had more and had worked to achieve more etc.
If we lack assurance, it seems to me, the fault is very largely our own. It is true we may lack assurance in some ways, and may never attain to it on a higher level than some do. We may always have some doubt, mostly because of the sin left in us that still displays itself and condemns our own hearts.
But what has become obvious to me in more recent times, after a long time of failing and right royally fouling up on the path of holiness, is that when we turn to God, and we see our progress, (no matter how slight) towards a godly life, and see how we overcome things that in the past we have stumbled over, perhaps time and time again, that in itself will lead to us having some assurance. There is no firmer witness to the Spirit than that of our own heart striving after God and striving to do his will, and diligently trying to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
However, if we stay where we are in the life of faith and godliness, and still have all the same sins as at the beginning of our Christian walk, we cannot get assurance from our own hearts conduct or the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, as we will grieve the spirit and our heart has no basis in that case for it to give us the least assurance at least not in sincerity.
“if faith is genuine, the more it is tested, the more secure it will be….Surely worldly people who try to reassure themselves with false reports of God’s grace towards them are in a lamentable state” [Willem Teellinck]
Jonathan Edwards said in another place in his diary:
“When I fear misfortune, to examine whether I have done my duty; and at the same time, to resolve to do it, and let it go, and be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin.”
Yet how many of us when misfortune or dark providence does befall us, never see it as coming as a result of our own sins. We may blame someone who has been instrumental in bringing it about for us. We may blame our situations and circumstances for us being pressed into doing things, because we have no other choice because we are so pressed. There is always another choice.
All these things and more besides, i failed at shamefully over a very long time. It was only after years of grief, and years of affliction hardship and tears, that I started to make ground, and I still have a long way to go.
I used to get angry, at people who seemed to afflict me. Yet their actions and the providence were from the hand of God.
My dearest friend, I have fought with over and over again. Not because I was angry with them or because they did anything particularly wrong. But I felt so desperate and in so much need, that I longed and longed and yearned for kindness, no matter what, and sometimes the harsh words between us, would feel more than I could bear in such a state of affliction. It used to feel like rejection, yet what God showed me more recently, is that person who I would fight with, when my lot felt too much to bear, she wasn’t fighting me because she didn’t care, she was fighting with me, because she was fighting for me. Probably harder and longer than anyone else has or did my entire life.
We get upset often, when our brothers and sisters use harsh words or corrective words. Yet maybe the next person to do it to you, is fighting for you, just like my friend was fighting for me, though I was often too blind to see, and its only more latterly that things have become more plain to me.
Thomas Boston wrote in his “crook in the lot,” that when we have a great affliction, it’s not the affliction that needs to change, it is us. And how true that is. And until or unless we do, we shall always be fighting the air, without really making ground.
When we do start to make ground, then not only can we bear our afflictions better, through the grace of God, we will also gain assurance from that if we lack it by whatever degree we do.
We can blame this or that, or that person or him or her. Yet its so often the truth, that the blame lies squarely in our own hearts. Until we address that, and it start to change it, by leaning on God for strength and grace, we will never really be successful in the life of faith, and the sins and failings we have will not get less and we will not overcome them. We will just continue to fight the air, as the Apostle Paul describes. Until we do,we will never profit from our afflictions.
No more than necessary will be given to correct the infirmity that the Lord wants to heal. In other words, he will not make the affliction harsher than what is required. Doctors sometimes makes mistakes in evaluating a patient. They may prescribe medicine that is too strong and initially makes the patient feel worse. But God, who created and formed us, knows our frame, better than we do. He remembers that we are dust (Ps. 103:14). He knows how weak we are and how little we are able to bear. He wants to help his children by afflicting them, not to destroy them, but to save them (Rev 3:19). Therefore he restrains the affliction and makes sure that it does not weigh too heavily on the patient. [Willem Teellink]
I often hear other Christians say, they would bear affliction easily. They speak in ignorance usually of course, and with great immaturity on the subject of faith. Again it seems to be the false reassurance spoken of previously.