Call it “melancholy”, call it spiritual depression, call it excessively introspective, Bible-believing Christians have always recognized the category of the tenderhearted soul. This is the true believer who is nonetheless overly anxious, almost obsessive, about his spiritual state. Everybody around him will quickly identify him as a godly Christian, but for whatever reason, he can’t see it. Often he lives in constant fear that he is among the self-deceived to whom Jesus will one day say, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). In the curious providence of God, I have several individuals in my congregation who fit this description. And on not a few occasions, I have found myself in this category.

Now in helping such persons enjoy assurance of salvation, it is necessary to be as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove. Conventional counsel encouraging believers to look for fruit of the Spirit in their lives rarely helps since tenderhearted souls are often more attuned to their insincere motives than most Christians. And since even our best works are tainted with insincere motives, this approach can easily make things worse. It can plunge the melancholic believer into a painful whirlpool of endless self-examination and despair.

If you are a pastor, almost certainly you have at least a few individuals in your congregation who fit this description. So as you prepare to shepherd your tenderhearted souls through their struggles with assurance, let me recommend a few resources. Books, articles, and lectures on assurance of salvation are legion, but here are a few that I’ve found particularly helpful in this area:

I’d be interested in your experiences. Would any of you describe yourselves as tenderhearted souls? If so, what have you found helpful for enjoying assurance of salvation?

Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation.

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One Comment

  • You have a couple of dead links in your article. Just thought you’d want to know. The two Trueman lectures are apparently removed, and the one on “Ten Questions…” just goes to a store but perhaps the book is no longer available?
    I personally have been encouraged by John Owen’s writings on Assurance, and Joel Beeke wrote a paper on Owen on that subject that is quite useful.

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