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When I Fear My Faith Will Fail

There are times in our lives when we feel we are hanging on by a thread. We don’t feel confident. We don’t feel assured. We don’t feel secure. We feel overwhelmed. Our faith seems to be so fragile it could shatter at any moment. We look at our circumstances and doubt whether we can make it through. We look at our daunting besetting sins and wonder if we’ll ever advance. We also wonder how it could be that we, a child of God, could think, feel, and do such shocking evils. We want to be different, perhaps wish we could be someone else. Like in the Bill Murray movie What About Bob?, we want to take a vacation from our problems.

Sometimes when I struggle so deeply with my sins, sins that I’ve fought for years, I wish I was someone else. Not so much in the sense of, “I wish I was James; he seems to have it all together,” but more in the sense of being different, of not being like myself, of perhaps struggling with something different for once so I can feel like I’ve made progress in the sins that constantly haunt me. Sin is tiring. We trust Christ, but our trust is so pathetic sometimes. If we’re honest, when we look toward tomorrow, we fear our faith will fail.

But isn’t it true that we are at our weakest when we are fixating on ourselves and our circumstances? They call it navel-gazing which defines as “excessive absorption in self-analysis or focus on a single issue.” We look to ourselves when we should be looking to Christ.  

You may get car or sea sick. One remedy is to face the direction you’re traveling, and another is keeping your eyes on a stationary object in the distance. [1] By His Spirit and Word, God is leading us in the right direction, so if we’re facing in another direction, perhaps the direction of doubt and insecurity, we’ll feel disoriented. We need to turn around and face the same way God is leading us. We need to set our gaze upon Christ. Self-reflection is essential, of course, as are confession and repentance, but if our attention is continually held by our own sins, inabilities, and weaknesses, it means Christ is not the center of our attention as he ought to be, and this is where our insecurity originates. We may fear that our faith will fail, but have we considered that the sovereign and sustaining grace and love of God never fail. That is a stabilizing truth. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Brothers and sisters, it’s easy for us to look at our faith, realize how weak it is, and to grow so discouraged we begin to ask, “Am I actually saved?” But we need to realize that this downward spiral is caused, at least in part, by concentrating on the wrong thing. Is the strength of our faith what gives us comfort and hope? No. It is the object of our faith which consoles our weary hearts. Are we accepted and loved by God because of the worthiness of our faith? No. Heidelberg Catechism 61 asks, “Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith?” It answers,

Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God. I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.

The strength or worthiness of your faith is not what gives you ultimate comfort and security. It is only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ which soothes your worried soul, for Christ alone is your justification before God. Faith, whether strong or weak, big or small, mature or immature, is the means through which God Himself extends you and me His grace, strength, and hope. When we are weak and needy and receiving His grace through even frail faith, we are secure in the love of our Savior.

J. C. Ryle gave us an immensely helpful idea. He said:    

Our faith may be feeble. Our courage may be small. Our grasp of the Gospel, and its promises, may be weak and trembling. But, after all, the grand question is, do we really trust in Christ alone? Do we look to Jesus, and only to Jesus, for pardon and peace? If this be so, it is well. If we may not touch His garment, we can touch His heart. Such faith saves the soul. Weak faith is less comfortable than strong faith. Weak faith will carry us to heaven with far less joy than full assurance. But weak faith gives an interest in Christ as surely as strong faith. He that only touches the hem of Christ’s garment shall never perish. [1]

That’s worth reading over and over again. So your faith is frail, your courage is small, and your grasp of the gospel and God’s precious promises is weak and trembling. Okay, it is good to be honest with yourself. But do you really trust in Christ alone? Are your eyes fixed upon him? Trying to muster up more faith in order to overcome is not the essence of true trust in Christ. Faith is coming to Christ with empty and open hands asking and expecting to receive his lavish mercy and grace which meet your deepest needs. Weak faith, as Ryle explained, is not preferable. It is much less comfortable than strong faith; it will not yield as much joy and assurance; but weak faith is true faith, and true faith looks to Christ alone expecting to receive strength, security, and comfort. Weak as your faith may be, God will still extend you His mercy, grace, and Spirit through it.

The song “He Will Hold Me Fast” captures the heart of our comfort: “When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast.” Our comfort in life and death is not that our faith is mighty, but that Christ is mighty and that Christ holds us fast and works to strengthen our faith through the Word, sacraments, and prayer. Fret not dear ones, though we feel our faith may fail, Christ will hold us fast.     



About the author

Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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