“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him…” Romans 15:13
Doubt is a haunting reality. Doubt lurks around every corner of life and feeds on the unknown. Since so much of life is unknown, doubt can be cultivated quite easily. We can doubt other’s sincerity and question the validity of every relationship we have. We can doubt our own ability to make wise decisions and live life paralyzed by the fear of “what if.” We can doubt the cry of our souls that life has meaning and conclude that all is vanity. We can doubt God – whether He exists or if He does, whether He cares.
As a pastor, doubt is something that most would expect would not be an issue for me. But sometimes, it is. During one of my especially cynical seasons, I noticed something in the gospels that encouraged me a great deal. There is this guy named John “the Baptist.” John had a pretty good resume. His birth was miraculous (Luke 1:12), he was the cousin of Jesus, he was a prophet who ranked up there with Elijah (Luke 1:16 – 17), he baptized Jesus (Luke 2:21), and he saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus like a dove and heard a voice from heaven (Luke 3:22). I don’t know about you, but if I heard a voice from heaven I would probably not struggle with doubt ever again… right? You would think so, but John did struggle with doubt.
John was later arrested and put in prison. While in prison he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he was really the Messiah. “…he sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'”(Luke 7:19) Can you hear the discouragement in his question? In John’s darkest moment, he who saw heaven split and heard the voice of God thunder, experienced doubt.
What is interesting is that Jesus answers him by telling John’s disciples to report to him all the things that were happening to other people. “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (V. 22)
I realized two things as I reflected on this passage:
God has shown up in my life in profoundly powerful ways. In my darkest moments I cannot forget the things God has done.” I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” (Psalms 77:11)
I cannot become so focused on my individual experiences of God that I miss the work he is doing in the lives of others. This is why being part of a local community of believers is so important. We need to see God working in other people’s lives because it gives us encouragement. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10: 23 – 25)
Wherever you are today, whatever you are dealing with, don’t lose heart. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)