Crushed by Doubt
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
At some point, disappointment reaches into every life. And no matter how closely we walk with Jesus, its sting can paralyze us. In fact, sometimes the more we have chosen to believe big things of God, the harder we fall when things don’t turn out the way we thought they would.
Can you relate, dear one? Have you ever been so certain one moment and then found yourself reeling with doubt the next?
If so, you’re not alone. I’d wager that all who’ve chosen to live by faith, actively believing God for His promises, have faced a crisis of faith at one time or another. I know I have. If you and I are going to answer God’s call on our lives and trust Him to do extraordinary things through us, we need to know what to do when the crisis hits.
Let’s consider a man who found himself stumbling over disappointment—a man about whom Jesus claimed, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
It might interest you to know that Jesus spoke those words of John during his crisis of faith. Don’t you love knowing that God’s opinion of us doesn’t change in our moments of weakness? Instead of judgment, He lavishes grace.
Let’s take a look at what caused this great man to waver. In answer to God’s call, John had devoted his life to preparing the people of Israel for their Messiah. He challenged them to repent of their sin and return to God because Christ was coming. Then he pointed them to Jesus, certain Christ had come.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” John 1:29-30
John had no doubt that Jesus was the promised Christ. With his own eyes he witnessed the Spirit of God descend upon Him like a dove, just as God had told him it would (verses 32-33). Certain of what he knew in his heart, John boldly proclaimed,
“I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” John 1:34
And John was right, of course. Soon afterward, Jesus began to unleash the power of God upon the earth, performing miracles and healing the sick.
But while Jesus’ ministry kicked into high gear, John found himself in a situation he did not expect. He couldn’t join the throngs of people witnessing Christ’s miraculous works. Instead, he could only listen to reports of Jesus’ wonders from behind the walls of a prison cell.
Can you imagine the seeds of doubt springing from his disappointment? After all, hadn’t Scripture foretold that Messiah would come to set captives free? How hard it must have been to hear about all those miracles Jesus performed for others while experiencing no miracle of his own.
And for a moment, John wondered if he got it wrong.
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matthew 11:2-3
An interesting question from the man who declared, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34, emphasis mine).
Jesus patiently pointed John’s followers to the evidence of the miracles, then added,
“Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Matthew 11:6
Indeed. Blessed is the one who doesn’t stumble when Jesus doesn’t do what he expects.
I feel such compassion toward John, beloved. So far my journey hasn’t landed me in a cell, but I have felt my resolve crumble under the weight of doubt. I know the confusion of shifting from a strong stand of faith to crippling defeat when God’s will for me did not align with my own.
It doesn’t take long for seeds of doubt to crush a spirit.
But in my moments of weakness, I do exactly what John did. I take my doubt to Jesus.
After one particularly crushing blow, I remember rising early to the sounds of a thundering storm. Fitting, I thought. Nature’s rage echoed the turmoil swirling within me.
Clutching my Bible from the shelter of my covered porch, I watched the rain fall. Tears flowed in tandem, and I cried out to God in hopeful desperation while confusion and disappointment whispered there was no God at all.
Almost immediately, three wonderful words overwhelmed my thoughts, “I love you.”
Hope stirred, penetrating my doubt. “Is that really you, Lord?” And in His great mercy, my precious Jesus repeated Himself, “I love you.”
His presence washed over me, memories flooding my mind of promises made and kept. The faith I had been standing on was no illusion. Jesus was with me. And He loved me.
I received no explanation, just the sweet assurance of His love. But that was enough. My Savior infused my crushed spirit with life, and made me ready to stand again.
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Beloved, we may not get the answers we desire, but we can always have Him.
John never got the earthly rescue he sought from Jesus. Like me, crying out to his Savior did not alter his circumstances. But it did alter his heart. Jesus answered his faithful servant with assurances of truth—the truth that John needed to hear to build his faith.
How sweet it must have been to hear what Christ had said when John’s disciples reported back to him. He had not been wrong. The Christ had come. But John himself had prophesied, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). The one called to precede the Messiah had fulfilled his purpose, and Jesus gave him the strength he needed for the last leg of his journey.
Not long afterward, Herod took John’s life. As the executioner’s blade pierced his neck, John took his last earthly breath. He breathed his next in heaven’s throne room, face to face with the God he had faithfully served. All doubt erased. Hunger ceased. Pain faded into memory as his being flooded with indescribable love and surpassing joy.
You can be sure John never thought of returning to the desert in which he’d spent his earthly life. He’d finally made it home.
They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:7
Are you stumbling in doubt, beloved? Take it to Jesus. He has exactly what you need to make you stand.