Growing In Godliness Blog
“Seven Things to Remember When Dealing with Doubts - Part 1”Categories: Anxiety, Author: Mark McCrary, Doubt, Jesus
Seven Things to Remember When Dealing with Doubts - Part 1
By Mark McCrary
Text: Matthew 11:1-14
He was a voice "crying out in the wilderness" (Isa. 40:3; Mt. 3:3). He boldly confronted community and civic leaders—and paid a price for doing so (Mt. 3:1-12; 14:1-12).
He sat in prison in Herod’s Fortress, Macherus, near the Dead Sea. At some point, he received word about his cousin, Jesus. While John was in prison, certainly He must have taken up and added to John’s work; after all, John’s work was merely a precursor to the Messiah’s work. John must have been anxious to hear who Jesus had rebuked and confronted; the trouble Jesus had gotten into up to this point.
What he heard must have shocked him. Jesus not only wasn’t in trouble with legal authorities (at this point) but was rather popular with the people and ignored by authorities (at this point). What was going on? Was he wrong about Jesus? Had he imagined what he heard and saw when he baptized Him (Mt. 3:13-17)?
John sent several of his disciples to meet with Jesus, asking if Jesus was indeed who John thought Him to be, or should they instead be looking for another. Jesus responded by highlighting particular miracles John’s disciples saw Jesus perform. These were not random; rather they were spoken of as works of the coming Messiah in Isaiah’s message (Isa. 29:18; 31:1; 61:1). Jesus, it seems, did those works precisely to assure John. Jesus concludes with this admonition to his cousin, “Blessed is the one who isn’t offended (or, “tripped up”) by Me” (Mt. 11:6). In other words, the one who continues to trust and lets go of doubt.
John, the stalwart proclaimer, was doubting. From this account, we can draw several helpful lessons:
Number one: Everyone doubts
John wasn’t a weakling. He was tough and brave. Guess what? Everyone doubts. Elders doubt (Are we leading properly? What do we do about…?). Preachers doubt (“Am I teaching truth? Am I too loose? Am I too stern?” [these are actual doubts, btw-mm]). Parents doubt (“How do I raise my child? Should I homeschool? Put them in private school? Public school? What do I do?”). The strong and the weak at times wavier in their commitment. Maybe we wonder if God really exists? Or, is the Bible really reliable? Is a particular doctrine I hold actually true? We may sometimes have the idea that if we are doubting, we just aren’t strong enough and we are weak. That kind of thinking not only isn’t helpful, it isn’t biblical! Abraham doubted! Thomas doubted! No one, no matter how spiritually strong, is above doubting.
Number two: Express Your Doubts
If we aren’t careful, we can get so caught up in our church culture that we perpetuate the myth that “everyone is perfect.” The last thing we want to do is honestly pull back the curtain and reveal our struggle (because we must be the only ones with questions, right? Nope, see the previous point). Often, either we will keep our doubts to ourselves and move farther away from God, or we will express them to the wrong people who may reinforce those doubts. What we should do is exactly what John did—take them to God (or Jesus, in this case). Express your questions to God—He’s big enough to take them! Let him know your frustrations. Also, seek out godly, spiritual people you trust and know want the best for you. Be honest with them— you will likely find they’ve had similar wonderings.
Number three: The Circumstances of Life Cause Us to Doubt
Where was John at the moment? In a plush hotel? His private home? He was in prison. And, what type of prison? One with cable, high-speed internet, a gym, and a library? No, he was likely in a stone room, either hot or cold without any ventilation. No toilet (and everything that goes along with that). He may have been beaten and in need of medical attention. He was physically and mentally weak. That, in turn, leads to spiritual weakness.
Often, life doesn’t go the way we plan. Sometimes that’s good; other times, it's bad. We know there’s no assurance in scripture that our lives will go smoothly, and we read of the faithful whose lives certainly did not. But still, when the bills can’t be paid, when the doctor gives a bad diagnosis, when our loved one’s lives aren’t going well, when we are praying and serving but still struggling, we naturally ask, “Why?”
Life causes doubts.
That’s all for this week. Next week, we will consider four other things to remember. They are:
Number four: Jesus is understanding when we doubt…
Number five: Jesus doesn’t want us to remain in doubt…
Number six: Listen to witnesses, and…
Number seven: Hold on to what you know.
See you next week.