If I Am Truly Saved,
Why Do I Feel So Empty Inside?
My name is Kara Petroske, and this is my story. From childhood to adulthood, off and on, I struggled with anger and depression. There wasn’t a rhyme or reason, just that it was there and I didn’t know why. When I thought about life after death, I was curious, but as far as I could understand, if I believed in God and Jesus I was okay. My parents wanted my older brother and I to grow up knowing about God and what He had to offer. They brought us to a church on Sundays. I wasn’t really into church because I couldn’t sit and focus during services. My parents did their best to show me that they loved and cared for me.
One day I found an interesting little comic booklet from my grandmother’s church lying around in my parent’s house entitled, This Was Your Life, the story of a rich man who died and went to hell. I read that tract many times, most of the time I enjoyed the pictures.
“At times I asked Jesus to forgive my sins, but I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. I just knew that I needed help from God to stay out of hell.”
After elementary school I was drawn to other troubled teens. I was in a predicament at school pretty frequently. As time went on, my issues almost destroyed those that I loved. There was a silence from my parents that caused me to think about it inside. Who had I become?
At that time, the sorrow I felt was that I had gotten caught. I knew that I was in trouble and I needed to do something. In prayer I cried out to God to please change me. I started changing things I did not like about myself, starting with the moral issues and then the things I didn’t like about my attitude. I was concerned about my choices in life and where I was headed.
Years later, somebody handed a gospel tract to my brother while he was working at the library. He mentioned the church it was from and suggested we go. We loved it and soon after started to attend almost every service. I was finally finding my direction in life. One day I was listening to my visitation partner explaining to a person that in salvation there is a time and a place when you are saved. I thought to myself, “I must’ve been saved that time when I asked God to change me.” In putting the pieces together in my mind, I felt my testimony was based on how I asked God to change me. I added salvation to it so I would fit in with everybody else. Nobody doubted what I had said was true, except me!
“There was always this nagging guilt and uncertainty about where I stood with God.”
I didn’t even feel “good,” but the more soulwinning, Bible reading, and church fellowshipping I did helped that feeling pass for a while. Overall in life, I felt pretty good and had a great job that I loved. Then there was a silence again in my life that made me stop. I had been given a diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder that turned my world upside down. I was at a low point in my life at that time.
A couple years later, I met Corey and as I grew to trust him, I opened up about my doubts of being saved. He felt I just needed some help with assurance, because maybe I wasn’t discipled enough or hadn’t had a church in the early years. We did a Bible study on assurance, and for a little while I’d be okay, but the doubting would always return. Many times I prayed, “God, save me if I’m not saved already,” but that gave me no assurance. I wondered why there were still areas in my life that I desperately wanted to change but felt like I just couldn’t overcome. I figured I just needed to pray more, read my Bible more and listen to more preaching.
About a year later we were married, and I moved out of state, from everything familiar. From the beginning, being alone all day at home in a silent house was frustrating.
“I had everything I ever wanted and knew I should be happy and thankful. I questioned to myself, ‘Why do I still feel so empty?!'”
I also noticed after we got married that my love was different from Corey’s. Even though my love was conditional, God had been so gracious to give me such a loving and patient soul mate.
One day, I shared the concerns about my salvation with a friend from a new church. She said, “Maybe God is putting those doubts in your mind because you are not saved.” I was not ready to consider that yet, but she challenged me to think about that point where I said I got saved and match it up with what God says in the Bible about salvation. I tried to talk myself into assurance—after all, look how I was living my life; look at all the fruit in my life. I’ve had prayers answered and cared about people’s souls. I get excited about the things of God; I cared about other Christians. From the point I thought I was saved, I had changed SO much! I had come a long way to a very reformed person. I had, on my own, dedicated my life to Christ several times. Surely I must be saved.
I met with the same friend on a different day, and she again asked me questions about my testimony. I felt nervous having to explain it to her, and when I got home, I was really overwhelmed. That night I told my husband, “I think I’m lost.”
I sent Pastor Hammett a message and asked what he recommended. After listening to this sermon entitled, Repentance and Faith, I met with Mrs. Hammett. I explained to her that when I thought back to when I assumed I was saved, I couldn’t remember much, but that I was begging God to change me. According to the sermon on repentance and faith, crying out to God to change you is not salvation. To be true salvation, there had to be repentance and faith together. I could not say in confidence that I had that. All I remember was that I wanted to change. Everything else was a guess.
“I told her how I was counting on the things that I had done for God for the assurance of my salvation.”
She said, “Only God can show you if you are saved or lost. But don’t just pray a prayer to get it settled. You must realize that you are lost before you can get saved.” I wanted to settle the matter so badly. That night, my husband did the 4-week salvation Bible study with me in one session. During that study, God used the illustration of the filthy rag spoken about in the Bible to show me how pitiful I was and that I needed God, not that God needed me. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah chapter 64, verse 6) Corey urged me to read my Bible every day. I did this, waiting and praying for God to give me faith to believe He could and would save me. I kept asking God to show me how He sees me.
Two agonizing weeks went by with the understanding that I indeed was a lost person and on my way to an eternity in hell. Fear of making another false profession kept me from trusting Christ. Every day, I prayed for God not to send me to hell. I was afraid that if I got into my car and had a wreck and died, I would be hearing the words, “Depart from me ye cursed, I never knew you.” But God promises to show truth to those who are searching for Him with all their heart.
Wednesday, December 6th, I went to the chiropractor. I was so burdened about not settling this issue already. He asked me how I was doing. I said, “How would you feel, knowing you are condemned and separated from God?” He told me to see Christ as a daddy, and that salvation was an easy thing to do. I left my appointment on the brink of tears. I could not deal any longer with this heavy heart.
After we got home from church that evening, I waited till Corey fell asleep (because I didn’t want help) and thought to myself, “It’s time; I don’t want to wait any longer. I know what I need to do.” It was at 11:30 PM that I got on the floor on my knees right next to our bed and humbled myself. I gave Him my sin because I could not carry it anymore. I felt peace within my heart. I thanked Him for dying on the cross for me, and I understood what it meant to be saved. I had felt in my heart that I did not have a lot of faith, but I cried out to Him with what little I had. I thought, “I know God cannot lie about promising he would save me.”
“The next day, that nagging guilt I’ve had pretty much my whole life was not present.”
Where I was before empty, I was now filled! All my internal problems weren’t gone forever, but now I have a way to get through them. I can look back and see how God has truly changed things throughout the years, especially through becoming a wife and mother. At times I am heartbroken to realize that I willfully sin against God. At these times, I am reminded why Jesus willingly put Himself on the cross. I realize also, that if I get my eyes on Christ and what He has done for me, gratefulness surpasses the guilt and makes me want to push forward and do right.
I pray that you will examine your own testimony. The Bible says that it is good to examine ourselves to see if we be in the faith. (2 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 5).