“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” – Luke 7:19
Have you ever doubted God, His character and His ways? Have you ever been tempted to stop believing in God altogether, like Richard in Philip Yancey’s book, ‘Disappointment with God’? He had written a book on the Book of Job and asked if Yancey could critique it. Even though Yancey agreed, he had doubts it would make compelling reading but he was wrong. Over the next few months, Yancey worked closely with Richard by phone and mail on the manuscript. After a year, with a completed manuscript and a signed contract in hand, Richard called Yancey to ask him to write a foreword, which he gladly did.
Shortly before its publication date, Richard called again. “I need to see you, Philip. There’s something I feel obligated to tell you, and it should be in person”. He sounded tense and edgy. When they met, Richard told Yancey that he no longer believed in what he had written in his book anymore. He suddenly blurted out, ‘I hate God! No, I don’t mean that. I don’t even believe in God’. And for the next three hours Richard tells his story, beginning with his parents’ divorce. His three complaints against God: that God is unfair, silent and hidden.
In Luke 7:19, we have John the Baptist, the greatest of all prophets, having doubts whether Jesus is the Messiah he anticipated. This is the same man who had made this bold declaration about Jesus previously, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). What happened? It may have something to do with the fact that at this time, he is suffering and languishing in the dungeon of Herod, simply for being faithful and obedient to God’s calling on his life. Whatever the reason, he is struggling with doubts and this ought to comfort us because we often mistakenly think that if we are walking closely with God, we will never doubt. That is not the case at all.
We ought to be honest and open about our struggles with doubt just as the Bible is. The Psalms is a case in point. Chuck Swindoll opined, “Disciples who never suffer periods of trembling confidence in their God, the Bible…or their calling are most likely playing it safe and living in denial. Doubts force us to pursue the truth…Doubts make deep divers out of novice swimmers…Doubters are deep thinkers who need something more than church platitudes and folk theology. Doubters crave spiritual truths that work rather than cliches that merely decorate their denial. A doubter is no more a heretic than a questioner is a fool…Tennyson expressed this poetically: There lives more faith in honest doubt; Believe me, than in half the creeds”.
The healthy way to deal with doubts then is to voice them to God (and to others), just as John did. He expressed it honestly to Jesus and Jesus in turn reassured him that he is indeed the expected Messiah he had faithfully and boldly identified! Sometimes the reply doesn’t come. Or if it does, we are left with more questions than answers. At such times, we must learn to keep putting our trust in Him and live with our doubts. As Yancey writes, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no opportunity for faith either.”
Lord, increase our faith in you!