One of the most heart-breaking experiences I have had as a Pastor or friend is hearing fears from dying people about their eternal security in their dying days. I remember most powerfully Gordon, a graduate of a theological seminary, a renowned physician and neurologist, who had earlier in his life spent years in the jungles of New Guinea as a missionary doctor diagnosing, treating, and building clinics and hospitals in forsaken areas. Now fighting liver cancer he quietly said one night, "I hope God accepts me when I get there. I hope I've lived an acceptable life."
I was shocked, but I did not show it to him. He had lived as an ambassador of Jesus' love! His life was totally a thankful response to the grace he'd received. His life and talk had always been of Jesus loving frail and broken stragglers with whom he identified. And now, when he needed it most, he was losing his confidence.
My father, a life-long "saint" and a long-careered pastor lost his confidence, too. At age 98, still clear-thinking, he confided one evening, "Well my days are coming to an end. I sure hope Jesus loves me in spite of my sins." I debated within myself how to answer. The smart-aleck son wanted to mock him a little because in my whole life with him, I couldn't think of one sinful deed. But I was now also his Pastor, and I was appalled that this man, who had counseled, preached and modeled "by grace are you saved", was now afraid he might not qualify when he reached the Pearly Gates.
I refreshed his memory and cheered him with basic Biblical truths. Weakness, sickness, pain and grief can riddle our assurance, confidence, security and hope.
When our lives are threatened or we are devastated, holding firmly to God's promises may be difficult or impossible because we feel so terribly ill. When we are weakened by age or circumstance, our feelings can lie to us and whisper serious untruths like, "You are unworthy," or "Does God really love you?”
The joy of the Lord is not really a feeling. It is the realization and acceptance of the profound truth that you are a precious child of God. This joy is remembering and knowing that the Lord keeps promises and will never let you go.
Of course there can be an emotional component to such wonderful truth. But over against that day or time when your feelings may be woeful, worried or weary, do this: plant firmly in your mind and resolve to let nothing shake it, undermine it, or cast doubt on it, these words: "Nothing can separate me from the love of God." (cf. Romans 8:31-39).
A grandmother was telling her little granddaughter what her own childhood was like. “We used to skate outside on a pond. I had a swing made from a tire; it hung from a tree in our front yard. We rode our pony. We picked wild raspberries in the woods.” The little girl was wide-eyed, taking this all in. At last she said, “I sure wish I’d gotten to know you sooner!”