These beautiful words come from ‘God on the Inside‘ by Nigel G. Wright on page 105.
Rather than denying that Christians have doubts, Wright spells out the incredible ways in which the Holy Spirit assures us and works through those doubts to bring renewal. As someone who struggles to understand why God allows suffering, knowing that God does not abandon me in my doubts, is hugely comforting. In the last paragraph Wright also offers a warning and wisdom.
Every Christian will know the assuring work of the Spirit but all of us also know that there are times when God seems more absent than present – times of spiritual dryness. These two have their place, since they teach us not to rely on feelings, which can be variable and unreliable, but to live in faith and trust. Yet to recognise that the Spirit brings assurance may help us to understand many experiences that are commonplace in the Church. Most of us need to experience some form of renewal at some time or other because our awareness of God wanes. Church history is full of renewal movements that have sought to bring to the wider Church a new sense of God’s presence and power. It is helpful to understand that, often, these are new manifestations of the assuring work of the Spirit breaking out among God’s people.
This explans why believers often testify to coming to a new place in their walk with God. Different terms have been used at different times. Sometimes people speak of being ‘baptised in the Spirit’ or ‘sanctified’. Sometimes the renewal experience is accompanied by receiving a spiritual gift, such as speaking in tongues. Rather than engaging in extended debates about which of these terms are correct and which are not, it is perhaps more helpful to see all these experiences as moments when the assurance of the Holy Spirit that we are truly in Christ and truly God’s children is intensified and increased within us.
There is much to give thanks for in this and absolutely nothing of which to boast. The tragedy of such movements is that they always have the potential to become divisive. Those who have entered into new experiences might regard themselves as ‘those who have it’, looking down on those who have not entered in as ‘those who lack it’. Equally, those who are outside the new experience take offence because they feel that they are being looked down on and lack the security in God to rejoice on behalf of others. Both tendencies are symptons of immaturity: why should any of us be threatened by the fact that others experience the assuring work of the Spirit? And why should assurance of a grace that is free and undeserved lead any of us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought?