Life + Culture
Blessed Without Assurance
“Blessed Assurance” is a favorite hymn of mine — though there have been times I’ve had to fight to sing the words.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine; O, what a foretaste of glory divine.
There is a sublime sense of joy that comes with assurance. As a child, and even now as an adult, my assurance has waxed and waned. Sometimes it seems so secure that it isn’t worth a second thought. Other times my faith is utterly desperate and weak, and all I can do is throw myself on God’s mercy.
This sense of un-assuredness has taken on new dynamics as I watch my disabled son grow into a two-year-old. Not mainly for my own assurance, but in regard to his.
The Search for Absolute Certainty
Before we had Titus, I sort of assumed that all babies and the cognitively disabled were saved. Period. No question. End of story. I’d heard it from the pulpit with conviction, and one or two accompanying verses, and it’s what I wanted to believe. Add to that the simple reality that the claim was never tested in my life, and it made for a convenient, unexamined, yet secure, belief.
Now that I’m faced with the question of my own son’s eternal security day in and day out, it’s taken me on a search through the Scriptures and in conversations with friends who are Bible scholars in order to nail it down. I’ve searched for an absolute, unequivocal certainty. I wanted to know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that Titus belongs to God and that Jesus’s sacrifice is for him.
But I’ve come up short of that. Which isn’t to say that what I’ve found is insufficient. It is sufficient. The Scriptures and the person of Jesus are sufficient for my searching. They are sufficient for the heart-wrenching questions of a mom who wants to know that her son will be with God forever, even though he may never understand the gospel, or make a profession of faith, or be baptized, or take communion, or be considered a member of our church.
How God Answers
Yet God doesn’t answer our questions with certainties and assurance to the uttermost, but what he requires of us is faith. Not faith in our preferred outcome, not faith that my son will be saved, but faith in God — in his character, in his goodness, in his ultimate perfection and justice.
I do have hope that Titus will be saved, regardless of whether he ever manifestly understands the gospel. I base this hope on the overarching themes of Scripture that show our God to be a lifter of the humble, merciful, near to the brokenhearted, a healer, one who values weakness and uses it to shame the wise. This a firm foundation for my hope, but I cannot point to chapter and verse in which God lays every question to rest and puts complete certainty within my grasp.
Faith Grows Here
So I’m learning to live in a kind of blessed un-assurance. Sometimes this lack of assurance is the very place that true faith grows. It grows in the soil of powerlessness. Faith grows when all illusions of control have finally been wrested away. This is a genuine faith that doesn’t count on conjuring up the right prayer formula to get my way, or finding the right selective combination of verses to soothe my heart.
Rather, my faith is in Jesus. I’ll spend the rest of my life getting to know this God, whose way is perfect, more and more in his word, so that my faith in him can grow — so that I can better understand his ways and his heart.
In hope, I’m entrusting my son to him. It’s the kind of trust that knows, no matter the outcome, that someday we will look at our Lord and say without flinching, “You did right by me. You did right by my son. You did right by every person in the universe. Your ways are high and your plan was perfect.”
Funeral Message for Owen (sermon)
What Hope Can We Have for Lost Loved Ones? (interview)