John the Baptist had his doubts. He had been arrested and was languishing in prison. This wasn’t quite how he thought things would turn out. Having once been very confident that Jesus had been sent by God, in prison his doubts grew and so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” (Luke 7:19) I’m glad John asked this question. This is my question. This is a question many of us ask. Is Jesus the One, or should I look at the alternatives?
Rather than stewing on his doubts in the dark of a prison cell, John took a step of faith and exposed his doubts to the light of Jesus. We shouldn’t suppress our doubts, hiding them away, fearful of what God might think of us, rather we should bring them to Jesus. Jesus responded to John with compassion. He didn’t send John’s disciples back with a harsh command to harden up and trust more. Jesus didn’t give a wordy theological answer, he simply pointed the disciples to the miracles happening in the lives of the people around him and then sent the disciples to tell John what they had seen. These miracles displayed the reality of the kingdom of God making a spiritual difference in people’s lives.
This compassionate response to human weakness and doubt is common in the bible. God understands our doubts. In love Jesus held out his scarred hands to Thomas saying, It’s okay, you can touch my wounds. God didn’t give up on Gideon, rather he strengthened his faith by meeting the challenge of the fleece. You and I don’t need to hide our doubts away, God already knows them, and still he loves us!
Timothy Keller has a great sermon called Praying our doubts. In this message he looks at Psalm 73. The writer of the Psalm wrote of his foot slipping, but realised God had a firm hold on him. Timothy Keller suggests we doubt our doubts and take hold of God’s hand. Many Christians don’t seem to grasp how rational and reasonable Christianity is; that it is built on a strong foundation and is not about to topple. Some treat their faith like a fragile flower that could easily be crushed or blown away by winds of doubt. It is comforting then, that Isaiah reminds us, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3) Further, God commands us, “Be merciful to those who doubt;” (Jude 22)
Jesus is merciful to those who doubt, to John the Baptist and to us.
So, what are we to do with our doubts? We can follow John’s example and take our doubts/questions to Jesus. We can take Timothy Keller’s advice and Doubt our Doubts. As we do this we will find, “The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (Psalm 145:13–14)
Listen to Timothy Keller’s podcast here.
Ask yourself, do I trust God enough to take my doubts to Him?
Rev John Malcolm