We all have our doubts. You have yours. John the Baptist had his. And believe it or not, I have mine. Often, doubts arise because we allow our expectations to out run God. We build our theology on our circumstances or, worse still, on our feelings. We soon become disappointed: Doubt creeps over our souls, robs us of joy, and dislocates our ability to worship.
Luke pulls no punches in describing John's faith-fainting fit. We hear the full text message of his insecurity twice in as many verses. It's all rather embarrassing, isn't it. After all, John was the messenger whose whole purpose was to herald the Messiah's coming. Now, it seems, even he isn't so sure.
He is, however, to be commended. In going straight to Jesus, he responds to doubt appropriately. Too often, when we are disappointed with God, rather than go to him for a frank face to face, we avoid Him, offer perfunctory prayers about anything and everything else, and allow the Elephant of resentment to remain in the room until our souls fester. John shows us a better way. We should follow His example and "Cast our burdens upon the Lord. He will sustain us. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."
It is also interesting to notice how Jesus deals with John's doubt. Jesus simply offers John Scripture to feed his flagging faith (Cf: Isaiah 26:19, 29:18, 35:5-6, 61:1). There is an important lesson here concerning the ways of Jesus with the souls of men. Sometimes when our faith is weak, we long for Jesus to come with some direct reassurance - a lightening bolt in the heavens, a thundering voice to answer all questions, dispel all our doubts, and calm all our fears. Jesus could have done that for John. He could have answered John's question with a simple, "Yes, I am the Messiah." But He didn't. Why?
Had Jesus dealt like that with John, he wouldn't have been helping John believe. Instead, He would have actually been removing the need for John to have any faith at all. John would simply have said, "Now I know Jesus is the Messiah because I have seen, I have heard, I have tasted, and I have felt." This is not faith, it is sight. And it is not the way believers live.
Unconverted people walk by sight. Their whole attitude towards God is one of skepticism. They refuse to believe God's self revelation contained in the Books of Nature and of Scripture. They say, "Sorry, God, we don't find your voice compelling enough, credible enough, authoritative enough. We want (read: demand) something more before we will believe in you." This is man's natural attitude towards God. He is allergic to faith. He does't want to trust God. He wants to know for himself, live for himself, and think for himself. Deep down, this is the reason for all our unbelief. We can't trust God because we won't trust Him, and it is because we won't that we can't. We make our own shackles.
Unbelief is, therefore, a spiritual problem, not an intellectual one. John's problem was not one of a lack of evidence. Had he not seen the heaven's opened before, had he not watched the Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove, had he not heard the Father's approving voice over His freshly-baptized Son. John's problem was one of disappointment. He was disappointed that Jesus didn't live up to his expectations, or work according to his time table. He had even perhaps begun to feel a bit sorry for Himself languishing in prison. Had the Messiah not read the last bit of Isaiah 61:1?
We all face similar disappointments. And the answer is not for God to give us all the evidence we feel we need, or for Him to answer all the questions we feel we have. No, the answer is for us to trust what God has said more than anything else: more than what we see, what we hear, what we experience, what we fear, or what we long to see happen. This is the posture of faith. It is content to let God be God, and to live in the grey space separating what He has said in His word from what we currently experience in our lives. What about you? Are you content to live here? Do you have the faith to say, "God is true and I label every contrary voice, thought, feeling, fear, conviction, conclusion a liar!"
"Oh," Jesus says, "Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me." "Blessed is he who does not take offense at (stumble over) me."