There is a wearisome weight that I am ashamed to say I have never fully laid aside without returning to it; a sin that clings so closely, I don’t seem to ever totally shake it off; a lingering fear lurking just beyond the present joy, or overwhelming me with thoughts that God’s promises aren’t for me, that my sin is somehow too great for His inexhaustible grace. I am talking about the struggle of unbelief, of doubt. It is an agonizing weight that I have fought, in seasons, over years to lay aside. At its best, it humbles me; but at its worst, it plunges me into despair that leaves me ineffectual. And behind it all is the question: Is Jesus who He said He was?
I am not the first to ask this question.
John the Baptist was a “righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:20) to whom the “word of God came” (Luke 3:32, John 1:33-34). He prepared the way of the Lord, preached the good news of the kingdom, and knew that the One coming after him was infinitely greater. When he saw Jesus Christ, he declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He saw the heavens open, the Spirit descend, and he heard God the Father speak! He knew the truth, believed the truth, preached the truth.
And yet, after all this, he still asks: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3).
John knew and bore witness that Jesus was the Son of God (see John 1), but he still asks this question. He asked this question from prison, locked up by Herod the tetrarch. Perhaps this was not the future he had anticipated when he baptized Jesus. Jesus surely wasn’t the Messiah the Jews expected. Perhaps John was discouraged in prison, or he didn’t understand why he was being punished for proclaiming the truth. Perhaps he was looking for confirmation or encouragement.
No rebuke or impatience or disappointment are recorded. The text simply tells us that “Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.’” (Matt 11:4-6). Jesus then goes on to speak very highly of John to the crowds (Matt 11:7-11). Jesus’ miracles were evidence that He was the fulfillment of the prophecies and the promises that John and many others had hoped in. Jesus is who He says He is: He is the Resurrection and the Life, giving eternal life to all who will believe in Him (John 11); He is the Light of the World, and He is the Lamb of God who takes away our sin by being sacrificed in our place; He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10). He is the Messiah who has given us every reason to trust Him, and yet He is also the Compassionate One who rescues those of little faith who doubt but cry out to Him (see Matt 12:28-33). So, let’s cry out to Him who says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1).
Later, when Jesus confronts the disbelief of his disciple, He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Maybe there have been no miraculous signs in your life for a long time. Maybe you cannot see any good coming from your current situation. Maybe you feel imprisoned in doubt or despair or difficulty. Here is a promise for those of us who did not see the miracles or the scars, but who are fighting to believe anyway. Another promise I cling to is: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). Let’s hold on to His promises. The Author of our faith will perfect our faith (Heb 12); He will finish what He began (Phil 1:6). Because His faithfulness is not dependent on ours—praise God! He promises, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Let’s memorize His promises, and plead them when our feelings are fickle. Let’s pray, like the desperate father in Mark 9, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when we are struggling to hold on to and believe what we know is true, let us remember that He holds us and that nothing can pluck us from His hand (John 10:27-30) or separate us from His love (Rom 8:38-39).
When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path;
For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Saviour loves me so, He will hold me fast. (Lyrics by Matt Merker)
About the Author
Anna Garas is a high school science and English teacher. She is currently working towards getting her counselling qualifications. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, telling them funny stories or having deep conversations. She loves adventures, especially in beautiful places. In terms of ministry, she has a passion for youth and missions, waiting for the day when there are no more unreached people groups; she also longs to see the abolition of human trafficking.