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Doubt: Friend or Foe?

Herod…locked John up in prison.”

Luke 3:19-20, ESV

Icy fingers of darkness refuse to relent their hold on me. I am half-frozen and beyond shivering as I lean back against the cold, hard stones of my prison cell. I blow on my fingers in a feeble attempt to release them from the grip of cold, but the air escaping my lungs carries little warmth. I lift my left hand before my eyes to try to see it, but the darkness is so complete I see nothing.

Oh, this pit. This dungeon. This place is now my home. Do you want to know what the worst part is? It isn’t the darkness, nor is it the coldness that fills every inch of this cell. The most challenging part is the questions and the doubts that are swirling on the inside. In my head. In my heart. The blackness is so dark that I cannot see the light.

Growing up, I knew who I was and what God’s plan was for my life. With confidence and faith, I walked on the path he set before me to take. But now, in this place, it is hard to remember who he is and who I am. It is hard to hold on to what I know to be true.

I lift my hands and cry out, “God, please, help me!”

Surely, he can bring light to my darkness of my doubt. As I wait in the silence, a question forms in my mind. I hope he will not condemn me or my question, because I do not know who else to turn to.

Wait! What is that I hear? Footsteps! Voices! Someone is coming. Maybe they can carry my question to Jesus.

Have you experienced problems that have left questions in your head and doubts in your heart?

I have, and that is why I find encouragement in Matthew and Luke’s accounts about a time when John the Baptist experienced doubt.

Keep in mind, this is John the Baptist. He jumped in his mother’s womb when Mary, the mother of Jesus, came into the room (Luke 1:45). Prophets told of his birth hundreds of years before he was born, and an angel appeared to Zechariah and announced that the son soon to be born to him and Elizabeth would prepare the way for the Lord (Luke 1:14 – 17). He lived in the desert, and when the time came for his ministry to begin, he baptized people along the banks of the Jordan River in preparation for the arrival of Jesus (Luke 3:3-6).

Not only this, but John the Baptist also baptized Jesus. When Jesus came up out of the Jordan, John saw the Holy Spirit (as a dove) descend from heaven and land on Jesus. Then, he heard a voice from heaven confirm that Jesus was God’s beloved Son with whom God was well pleased (Matt. 3:13 – 17).

Yet, John’s life was turned upside down and inside out in a short period. From the banks of the Jordan, he was plunged into a Roman cell. In these confined quarters, questions and doubts arose, and he needed an answer. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus…

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Keep in mind that this question coming from John the Baptist. His whole life, from pre-birth to adulthood, was connected to Jesus. Out of anyone, he would be the one who would know who Jesus is. Yet, John is the one asking…

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Jesus does not condemn or shame John for asking this question. For wondering. For doubting what he once knew to be true. Instead, Jesus gives John’s disciples an answer to take to John. Jesus said, “Go, and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Luke 7:22-23, ESV).

Sometimes doubts get a bad wrap in Christian culture. However, is it possible that what we do with our doubts determines whether the path they lead us on is good or bad. Just as a warning light on a car’s dashboard warns that there is an issue under the hood, doubts can help us realize there is a tension in our hearts.

Instead of trying to solve it on our own, as Eve did, we can go to Jesus, as John did. While the path Eve chose ended in sin, John’s path led to an answer encouraging him to believe and then a warning that the one who is not offended by Jesus is blessed.

Life can be confusing and complicated. Many times, situations turn out differently than we expect, or we experience problems that cause us to question and doubt the truth that we believe. Instead of stuffing our questions into a dark corner or trying to reason our doubts away with logic, Jesus invites us to come to him. He will not condemn us or shame us for drawing near to him.

He is our Wonderful Counselor. He can help us understand why we are experiencing doubt and resolve them with his truth. He is our Mighty God. Our doubts and questions are never too big for him. He is our Everlasting Father who loves us. Our doubts and questions can never drive him away from us. He is our Prince of Peace. He can help us navigate doubts and questions in a way that will bring peace to our hearts instead of leaving them in the churning sea of turmoil.

Like John, we will have moments of doubt. When we don’t know the answer. When we question what we once knew to be true. Like John, we can go to Jesus, knowing that he is the safe place to bring our doubts and questions.

In his loving hands of truth, our doubts can be worked together for our good as they become an opportunity to strengthen our faith. As our faith grows, God is glorified, for without faith, it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6).

So, when you find your mind and heart filling with questions and doubts, let them drive you to Jesus and not away from him. Remember, we can bring every burden we have to him because he cares for us. (1. Peter 5:7).

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