It is easy to believe in the good times—when things are going great, prayers are getting answered, and God is obviously on our team. But just cut off the flow of blessing, squeeze our faith a little, push us out of the comfort zone, let God get outside of that nice, neat theological box we like to keep him in—then take our spiritual temperature and see if we’re still aflame with faith.
Read: Matthew 11
John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Matthew 11:2-3)
Let’s be honest—we’ve all been deeply disappointed with God. Sometimes he doesn’t live up to our expectations. A prayer didn’t get answered the way we wanted, when we wanted: a healing didn’t occur, a job was lost, a relationship went sour, a marriage wasn’t saved, a loved one refused salvation, a child died…
That’s when faith really gets tested. It is easy to believe in the good times—when things are going great, prayers are getting answered, and God is obviously on our team. But just cut off the flow of blessing, squeeze our faith a little, push us out of the comfort zone, let God get outside of that nice, neat theological box we like to keep him in—then take our spiritual temperature and see if we’re still aflame with faith.
John the Baptist was there. He had obeyed the call of God early in his life as the forerunner of the Messiah. He had arranged his whole world around announcing Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. He had lived an austere life, preached his heart out, courageously confronted the religious establishment, boldly challenged sinful hearts, and called Israel to national repentance, all to prepare the way for Jesus. He expected his faithfulness to God and obedience to the call would usher in the Kingdom of God when Jesus showed up and launched his messianic ministry.
But now he was in jail. He was in a pretty serious situation that in a few days would lead to his beheading. And Jesus was out there preaching to small crowds, doing a few miracles here and there, and not taking this Messiah thing very seriously. John was disappointed, to say the least.
Did you notice how Jesus handled John’s disappointment and doubt? Not with a brow beating, not with a rebuke, not with anger, Jesus simply reaffirmed John and spoke about his value in God’s eyes. Jesus understood where John was coming from.
Jesus also understood that God’s timing was way different than John’s. John wanted the Kingdom now, and when it didn’t happened, he questioned. So Jesus redirected John’s faith—he encouraged him to take his eyes off circumstances and put them back where they belonged:
“Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” (John 11:4-6)
Jesus is inviting John to keep his eye on the undeniable evidence of God’s activity; to stand firm in the unshakeable hope of God’s Kingdom; to lean into the unbreakable promise of God’s Word; to never let go of the irrefutable goodness of God’s character. And then, when it’s all said and done, John is just to fiercely trust!
We’ve all had those kind of doubts, questions, disappointments and perhaps even anger with God when he doesn’t live up to billing. Maybe that’s where you are today. That’s okay—God is big enough to handle your upset—provided you do as John did: Own up to your upset. God won’t give you a holy beat-down if you’ll come to him with a humble and honest heart. He’ll simply reaffirm your inestimable value and remind you of his everlasting love—and invite you to trust.
And at the end of the day, you’ll never be disappointed when you trust God. The Apostle Paul, who knew a fair amount about suffering, wrote these encouraging words in Romans 5:3-5,
“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Have you been honest with God about the doubts you are having—especially when they concern your confidence in Him? He invites your thoughts, worries and concerns—so right now is a great time to talk to him. And to listen. And then, to fiercely trust!