Just as I was branching out into college, I remember really wrestling an issue with my faith. I felt like my entire Christian faith would come undone without this answer, much like the unraveling of a sweater when you pull one dangling fiber.
It preoccupied my thoughts for weeks. It kept me unsettled and anxious until finally I made an appointment to talk with a minister in my church. He listened as I poured out all that had been keeping me in turmoil and then gave me such wise counsel.
He advised me to set the question aside for a while and instead focus on this: WHO IS JESUS? This was the truth I needed way down deep and then I could trust Him with all the rest.
What do we do with the hard questions? What happens when the Christian doubts?
“And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” (Luke 7:19)
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It’s almost incredulous to read that John the Baptist doubted. I mean, Thomas the apostle is infamous for his doubting, but John the Baptizer? The fearless, forerunner of Christ who boldly stood against the religious authorities calling for repentance and proclaiming the Messiah?
And yet, here he is asking Jesus “Are you the One? Is there another we should look for?” This passage came up as I’ve been reading 100 Days with Christ. It has much to teach us about when the Christian doubts.
1.True believers can have moments of doubt.
Let’s look at John the Baptist. He was the cousin of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit from birth and appointed a prophet by God. He lived an extremely ascetic wilderness life and preached dauntlessly to untold numbers who repented and were baptized.
He continuously pointed people to the Messiah. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John proclaimed as he pointed to Jesus one day. (John 1:29) John had even baptized Jesus. He’d seen the Holy Spirit descend on Christ and heard a voice from heaven confirm that this was the Son of God, in whom the Father was well pleased.
And yet, here he is with this hard question. John certainly didn’t live in doubt, but he did have this moment of doubt.
2. Hard circumstances create hard questions.
This doubt crept in after John the Baptist was arrested and thrown in prison. For more than a year, John faced execution in a black, windowless, stifling cell at the bottom of Herod Antipas’ desert fortress.
It’s often when things go wrong – the diagnosis comes or the job is terminated again – that doubts can creep in. Is God in control? Why isn’t He fixing this? But there’s something else that can stir up doubt.
3. Unmet expectations create hard questions.
Oh how we want God to conform to our agenda. Difficulty can often reveal our hidden expectations.
John’s faithful boldness resulted in prison. Down in that bleak dungeon, he heard reports of Jesus’ healing throughout Israel. This was not the kind of Messiah that so many Jews had expected. Wasn’t Messiah going to overthrow the Romans and restore the kingdom to Israel? What was this teaching on a hillside about being meek and persecuted and reviled? Was this the Coming One or would there be another?
We too can have expectations of what God should do. I mean, if we’re faithful and following hard after God, should He really allow us to walk through suffering?
But of course God never conforms to our agenda. We must conform to His.
4. It’s okay to ask hard questions.
Jesus never rebuked John the Baptist for his question. Jesus rebuked plenty of people for their attitudes and motives, but not this question. He didn’t get impatient or angry; he wasn’t surprised or offended. In fact, Jesus went on to praise John as the greatest prophet ever born of women.
John had asked a sincere question with a sincere motive. It wasn’t the heckling of a skeptic or a trap set by a scoffer. I think this assures us that our sincere questions asked with sincere motives are safe with God.
5. Take hard questions to Jesus.
John the Baptist didn’t go to the scribes or Pharisees. He didn’t ask his own friends and disciples. He didn’t even go to fellow believers. He took his doubt straight to Jesus.
We need to take our hard questions to Jesus. God will reveal Himself and He will either answer our hard question or bring us peace as we wait for the answer.
6. Jesus answers the one who asks
Don’t miss this — when Jesus answered John, he did so very personally:
“When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them ‘Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’” (Luke 7:20-23)
Do you see the Lord’s tenderness? He could have said, “Buck up, John. You heard it firsthand and you should know this!” He could have dismissed the question with impatience at the flagging faith. But Jesus in perfect love gave John just what he needed.
John the prophet understood prophecy. And so, as the two inquiring disciples watched, Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah before their very eyes — healing the sick, curing infirmities, restoring sight, delivering from demons. Now go and tell John what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard.
An answer tailored to meet the needs of the one who asked.
That is our God. In perfect love, He receives the hard questions. He is so trustworthy, even with our hardest questions.
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