Summary: To learn to go to God in the event of getting doubts...
Doubting the doubts!
“When you ‘taste’ doubt, you taste chaos but when you ‘taste’ faith, you taste cosmos” is a juicy one-liner which adorns sermons revolving around faith, preached with much gusto by a many a preacher, the world over. Nothing wrong about it, of course! But in this world, at a time both at general as well at personal levels, when things begin to drift from ideal to unpleasant, do not doubts creep into our minds? Firstly, let’s consider the ‘general’ problems. When we see natural calamities snuffing out lives, epidemics sending many to a premature grave, see blood being shed all in the name of ‘holy war’, do not disturbing questions arise in our minds? Is the powerful and just God in control?
Then again at personal level, when we are beset by problems like unexpected bereavement in the family, loss of health, financial upheavals…all these despite our faithfulness to Him…do not legitimate doubts crop up about God’s ‘goodness’ in our minds. Yes, they do with unfailing regularity.
Now is it wrong to have doubts? To be more blunt, is it a sin to have ‘doubts’? What about heroes’ of faith? Were they also plagued by doubts from time to time? The answer is an emphatic…YES! No less a person than John the Baptist (certified by Lord Jesus himself as ‘Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet’)…in turbulent times, had doubts…. and why not? For nearly a year till then, this child of nature, who had always lived in the wide-open spaces, with the clean wind on his face and the spacious vault of the sky for his roof, was languishing in a dark, stifling dungeon. The fact that his constricting cell was in an old fort at a place called Machaerus – a hot and desolate region- located fifteen miles south of the northern end of the Dead Sea, merely compounded his woes on the physical front. Added to this was a prickly, discouraging thought ‘Is this the reward for my arduous labour for the Lord?” Then what about the unfulfilled (?) Messianic prophecies of deliverance of prisoners (Isaiah 61:1)! No wonder, all these factors working in unison cast a shadow on his radiant faith. His faith, which all along had been like the noonday sun, shining in all its glory was covered albeit temporarily by dark clouds of doubt. And his response in this defining moment? HE TOOK HIS DOUBTS TO THE RIGHT PERSON (Luke 7:19)! YES, TO JESUS HIMSELF!! Oh what an action, worthy of emulation, offering direction to many a believer shaken in faith and immersed in doubts!!! Yes, as long as, we take our doubts to the Lord himself, we are on a safe footing.
What was Jesus’ response to the doubts of the person, who not long ago had publicly proclaimed Him to be the Messiah? A stingy accusation for a spiritual flip-flop? No, one of quick response to reinstate faith, just as a caring Doctor would immediate promptly administer first aid to a bleeding patient. Luke reports that at that VERY TIME(Luke 7:21), Jesus performed many miracles right in front of John’s disciples, in order they go and report to John, that Messiah was going about the “Father’s business in right earnest”. Yes, towards the end of his reply to the question posed by John, there was a tender warning in Jesus’ words, not to intimidate but to intimate his deep care for John’s spiritual life and his awaiting heavenly rewards. Later events in John’s life would prove that his faith was revived on hearing the Master’s message to him. Otherwise, to his disciples with whom he was in contact even while being in the prison, he wouldn’t have conveyed till the very end of his life that Jesus was the most important person in his life. No wonder, after his death, the very FIRST person whom John’s disciples’ sought to convey the news was that VIP in his life…JESUS (Matt 14:12) and not any of his relatives, who may have been more closely related to him. Pray tell me who would the concerned crowd/police intimate in the event of a road accident to a commuter? His closest kith and kin like his spouse (the most important person in his life) or some distant friends? THE ANSWER IS OBVIOUS! In that entire account from Luke 7:18-23 and beyond, we see John the Baptist being actually set free from chains…not the physical chains, which at best or worst, could harm him bodily but from far more damaging chains… the ones of doubt engulfing his spirit.
John the Baptist’s way of handling of his doubts, if anything, strongly underscores the fact that while it is not a sin to have doubts we need to, more importantly, go to the right person with our doubts, because at that critical juncture one wrong step (going to the wrong person) would undermine all the diligent efforts of the years gone by. The bucketfuls of sweat shed hitherto in pursuance of the Master’s goal, would now doubtless go in vain!