Periodically, Christians struggle with doubt.
That doubt can come in many forms.
- Sometimes, we may doubt that God is listening to our prayers.
- Sometimes, we may doubt that He really loves us in light of the horrible things we’ve done.
- Sometimes, we may wonder if He’s even real.
We can be thankful that the Bible includes stories that don’t gloss over the bad stuff. The narratives in the Bible give us the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In Matthew 11, we are brought into a story where a great man of faith had a faith meltdown. When we think of John the Baptist, we typically think of a rugged (yet eccentric) man out in the wilderness who wasn’t afraid to look rebellious people in the face and call them snakes (Luke 3:7). When we think of him, we think of the incredible man of faith that baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17). He was a powerful man saturated with confidence in his God.
In fact, he was the man who identified Jesus to the crowd that had come to his baptism:
John 1:29 “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'”
Yet, there was a time when his faith stumbled. I mean, it hit rock bottom!
He was in a prison – there for calling out a public leader on the grounds of adulterous incest (Matthew 14:3-4). As he sat in that prison, his faith faltered. He began to question things that had been deeply held convictions earlier.
So, he sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask a question. He needed to know the answer. He needed to be encouraged so that his faith could be bolstered again.
Matthew 11:2-3 “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'”
In other words, John the Baptist was saying: “Jesus, I know that you are the long awaited Messiah. At least I used to believe it. I have already told people that you are. But, my faith is really struggling right now. I’ve got some serious doubts as these prison walls close in on me. Please tell me again that You are who You say You are.”
Well, how did Jesus respond? Did He ask, “My goodness! What happened to your faith?!” Did he say, “Oh, you poor thing. You of so little faith.”?
If you read the next few verses (Matthew 11:4-11), you will hear Jesus give John’s disciples some encouraging words to take back to him. As those disciples left, Jesus began bragging on John, apparently loud enough for John’s disciples to hear those words, too.
So, what can we draw from this? What is the take-away that can help us in our walk with Jesus?
Simply that God is more gracious and patient that we may realize. When we doubt and express those doubts, He may not be so quick to say, “Oh, you of little faith.” Instead, because of His love for us, He may look for ways to bolster our faith and encourage us along the way.
I really think that a lot of us need to reflect much more often on grace and how, through Jesus, we are recipients of it. Even when we have times of doubt – and we will – we can offer them up to the Lord. We can tell Him all about about it and can be assured that He’s going to love us through it.
After all, this is how He responded to John the Baptist.