Some people are natural skeptics. Without thinking about it or trying very hard, they question everything. And everyone. Others, like myself, are naturally trusting. For the most part, I trust just about everyone. Especially those I love and respect. What they say happened, I believe it happened. That they say is true, I believe that it must be true.
But at the age of 18 and 3000 miles away from home, I started asking myself lots of questions. Questions I had never really asked myself such as, “What if I’m wrong? What if I am wrong about faith in Jesus? What if I’m wrong about the Bible? What if I’m wrong about everything I have grown up believing?” For the first time in my life, doubt had taken a hold of my mind.
I still remember the thought racing through my mind, “I know what my parents believe. I know what my church believes. But what do I believe?” There are some who believe that having doubts about one’s faith is weak, inferior, and something to avoid. I disagree. I believe that struggling with doubts can actually strengthen our faith. This is what doubts did for me. It forced me to take a closer look at what I said I believed and dig deeper which exercised my faith muscles like never before.
King David had doubts about God. He asked God where was He and why didn’t God answer him. And David was considered the apple of God’s eye. Some Old Testament prophets had doubts. They wondered if they heard God correctly and if God would really do what He had promised. Sounds a lot like us today.
I believe “Doubting” Thomas gets a bad rap. Here’s a guy who had a difficult time believing that Jesus had rose from the grave. But who could really blame him? How many of us have seen someone alive after they died? For me, the real doubter that I can relate to was a relative of Jesus. Not his step brother James. He only started to believe in Jesus after the resurrection and became the pastor at the church of Jerusalem after Jesus returned to heaven.
I’m referring to John, the cousin of Jesus. The forerunner of the Messiah. The one who saw the heavens open up after he baptised Jesus and saw the Spirit of God descending on Jesus like a dove. Then he hears God the Father say, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) This is the same guy who earlier couldn’t contain himself and shouted for everyone to hear, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
So, how can John say what he said, see what he saw, and hear what he heard and still doubt Jesus? I don’t know. But he did. Several years after this baptism experience, John finds himself confined in the prison of Herod Antipas and waiting a likely execution. He was not only suffering with physical anguish but emotionally afflicted with doubts about Jesus. As a result, John sent some friends to find the answers to some very important questions he was struggling with:
"When John, who was in prison,
heard about the deeds of the Messiah,
he sent his disciples to him,
'Are you the one who is to come, or
should we expect someone else?" - Matthew 11:2-3
I believe the source of John’s doubts were unmet expectations. Why? Because hearing about the deeds of Jesus seem to trigger his questions. Healing sick people, visiting homes of sinners, loving on children, debating religious leaders, and hanging out with fishermen and tax collectors probably didn’t seem very Messiah-like to John. I wondered if he expected what most Jews expected a Messiah to do: take on the Romans and set up His kingdom.
Thankfully, Jesus responded to John’s doubts in a very gracious way. Jesus didn’t condemn his questions or his apparent lack of faith. Instead, Jesus actually complimented John by saying, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” Matthew 11:11
Our doubts, too, usually are due to unmet expectations. We struggle when our prayers are not answered, when God seems so absent or silent, and when real pain hits our life in deep ways. That’s why our current teaching series, I Want to Believe, But… has really hit a nerve with lots of people. I am praying that this series will be really helpful to those who have wondered about and/or questioned the core of their faith.
Although God may not always answer with the timing we desire, nor are His answers always the answers we hoped for. But God will always meet us where we are, questions and all, and be gracious when we struggle with doubts. And better yet, His grace will always be sufficient for those who trust in God in the midst of our struggles.
Faith is not always easy. Sometimes it is very hard. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be called faith.