The Crushing Spirit of 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. No matter how closely we walk with the Lord, 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? 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 his own 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).

You might be interested to know that Jesus spoke those words of John while he was going through his crisis of faith. Don’t you love knowing that God’s opinion of us doesn’t change in our moments of weakness? How He lavishes us in 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 the coming of their Messiah. He challenged them to repent and return to God, declaring Christ was coming! Then he pointed them to Jesus, knowing 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. He had seen the Spirit of God come to rest 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. That same moment that sealed the truth in John’s heart launched the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The Teacher began to unleash the power of God upon the earth, performing miracles and healing the sick.

Yet while Jesus’ ministry kicked into high gear, John found himself in a situation he did not expect. He did not join the throngs of people standing by to witness the fulfillment of what he had prophesied about Christ. Instead, he could only listen to reports of Jesus’ wonders from behind the walls of a dark prison cell.

Can you imagine the seeds of doubt springing up through his disappointment? After all, didn’t Scripture foretell 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. 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

Jesus responded by proclaiming the evidence of the miracles themselves, 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. My journey thus far has not landed me in a cell, but I too 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 didn’t take long for seeds of doubt to crush my spirit. But in my moment of weakness, I did exactly what John did. I took my doubt to Jesus.

I remember rising early to the sounds of a thundering storm. Fitting, I thought. Nature’s rage echoed the turmoil swirling about in my own mind and heart. I grabbed my Bible and stepped outside onto my covered porch. Taking a seat in my favorite chair, I watched the rain fall, tears flowing, it seemed, in tandem with God’s own.

I cried out to God, my voice barely audible, “I need to hear your whisper on the wind.” Almost immediately, Jesus responded in my heart with three precious words, “I love you.” 

Hope stirred within me, its presence slowly piercing the shroud of doubt. “Is that really you?” And my Jesus in His great mercy repeated Himself, “I love you.”

I felt His presence wash over me from head to toe. Memories flooded my mind of promises made and kept by my Lord. The faith upon which I had stood was no illusion. God’s promises and His plans for me had not changed. He had simply altered my view of them. The Lord drew near to mend my broken heart, infused my crushed spirit with life, and made me ready to stand again. Oh, how I love Jesus.

John never got the earthly rescue he sought from Jesus. Like me, his crying out to God did not alter his circumstances. But Jesus did answer his faithful servant with assurances of truth…the truth that John needed to hear to build his faith…and then the Son of God proclaimed His pleasure over John’s life (Matthew 11:11).

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 breathed his last earthly breath. He took his next breath in the throne room of heaven, 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 once 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.

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