Have you ever struggled with doubting God? Where is your goodness? Why did you let this happen? When will you come? Cynicism erodes our hope; skepticism infiltrates our faith. Add to this a heavy dose of guilt for doubting in the first place. We should know better than to doubt, but circumstances we weren’t prepared for seem to short-circuit the memory of past faithfulness. I would guess most of us have questioned either God’s love or sovereignty at some point in our Christian walk.
John the Baptist certainly did. Languishing in prison, he who was once so filled with certainty now found himself perplexed as to whether Jesus really was the Messiah. His growing doubts culminated in sending his disciples to ask Jesus the most pointed of questions: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:19) The “voice in the desert,” the “preparer of the way,” the “baptizer of the one on whom he had witnessed the Holy Spirit descend” was having second thoughts. Whoa!
How did Jesus respond to John’s all too human apprehension? Did he condemn John for his lack of faith? Did he chastise him for being a poor witness? Did he whip out a law that declared, Thou shall not doubt? None of the above…
Jesus told John’s disciples to report what he was doing…healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching the good news…..all prophetic signs of the Messiah. John knew the scriptures. The Word of God was affirming God’s Word. And although John’s response is not recorded, I think it’s safe to say his doubts vanished.
The larger lesson for me in this story lies in how Jesus viewed John in the midst of his doubts. He neither dismissed his questions nor disregarded his discouragement. Instead, he reaffirmed John’s call and lauded him to the people: “There is none born of woman greater than John the Baptist…” I find that remarkable. It’s so unlike how my short-sighted vision expects Jesus to react to my doubts….
Doubt appears to be, as Martin Luther says, “inseparable to man and knowledge.” But let us not linger in its shadows too long. Let the grace of Jesus lead us back into the light of all that is true, all that is certain.