So here's something. I have a very good friend whose dear wife is a lively and witty woman. She's bright, full of life, and she's a devoted and terrific mother. She's a woman of deep protestant Christian faith. Now in the protestant faith, faith itself--not one's actions--is the key linkage to God. Right beliefs and, more importantly, a right heart are emphatically central, just essential, to salvation. But here's the thing. For (most) Protestants, faith is understood as a gift from God. We cannot will ourselves into believing. More, our rotten hearts turn us away from loving God. By our natures we have as much chance of loving God and believing him in the right manner as a dead man has of resurrecting himself by his own efforts. And the reward for one's belief--again, a gift from God--is an assurance of salvation. The assurance isn't simply a feeling (which can come and go), but it's also not just an intellectual proposition. Faith, after all, isn't the same thing as logic and evidence. Assurance is a deeply absorbed sense of trust that God loves you and cares for you and has taken you into His bosom. So it's judgment and belief and feeling all wrapped into a nice cozy Holy Ghost blankie.
By which I mean no disrespect. Surely that's a wonderful state to experience.
So my friend's wife did all the things that good protestants are supposed to do. She relied on her faith for her salvation. She prayed. She read the Bible regularly. She went to church faithfully. She spoke with the pastor and others about her faith.
But the problem was that she simply did not feel assured. She just couldn't help resist the feeling that she was not one of the elect. She believed. Deeply. She knew that "works" were not the key to her salvation, but she thought that perhaps some sin was impeding a closer relationship with God. So she searched her character, her heart, her actions. She spoke with her pastor about her doubts. She read books on faith. She prayed fervently. She simply could not shake the doubts that perhaps God's table had no room for her.
Prayer followed by more prayer followed by more prayer. And yet the gift of assurance simply was not forthcoming.
Now this woman finally went to a psychiatrist because she was so down, and her psychiatrist diagnosed her as having OCD and a tendency toward depression. His solution was not spiritual but neuropharmacological.
After she started taking meds, this woman realized that Jesus is....well, He's alright with her.
God loves her, and she loves Him. After all, the Bible tells her so.
Oh the Holy Spirit, it do work wonders. Sometimes it just needs a little boost from the good doctor.