One of the world’s most loved comic strips is Hagar the Horrible. In one strip, we see Hagar kneeling in prayer, “It is not easy to believe in you God. We never see you. How come you never show yourself?” Next, we see:
- A flower springing into life next to Hagar.
- A volcano erupting in the distance.
- An eclipse of the sun turning the sky black.
- A star shooting across the night blackened sky.
- A tidal wave rushing over Hagar.
- Lightning flashing.
- A bush beginning to burn.
- A stone rolling away from the entrance to a tomb.
Hagar pulls himself from the mud, dripping wet, and surrounded by darkness. “Okay, okay! I give up! Every time I bring up this subject, all we get is interruptions.”
This comic strip makes light of a real issue with which many Christians struggle at some time in their life.
Is it true? This is a question many have asked over the years, and it brings to light the reality of doubt. Doubt is a season which many people pass through. When we think of someone who doubted, we probably think almost immediately of Thomas. He is even known as “Doubting Thomas.” Peter also experienced some moments of doubt, and it is safe to assume other of Jesus’ first followers may have had a doubt or two. John the Baptist among them.
Matthew 11:1-6 records, “When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region. John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing, so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?’ Jesus told them, ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the good news is being preached to the poor.’ And he added, ‘God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”
John the Baptist is struggling here. Perhaps with good reason, imagine the scene. John has been sitting in a small prison cell for approximately a year. His disciples were talking with John about the rumors of Jesus’ work. He was healing folks who suffered from a variety of diseases and illnesses, he was having compassion on people, and he was approaching individuals with a tender touch. As John was looking through the bars of his jail cell, it seemed Jesus was not bringing any judgment to the world, especially to the corrupted official who imprisoned him. Jesus is not acting in the way John thought the Messiah would, so he begins to doubt. He begins to wonder if Jesus is the Messiah who was to come or if someone else will be coming.
Put us in the scenes of our lives, and doubt begins to enter. We have plans made which we feel are secure, but suddenly life throws a wrench in those plans. We begin to wonder of the Lord’s whereabouts as our plans fall apart. Doubt creeps in.
Doubt enters for the young husband who is struggling just to provide for his family. Doubt enters for the parent whose child is struggling. Doubt enters for the retired couple who is dealing with much more than planned in their golden years. Doubt finds opportunities to walk into our lives.
Doubting and asking questions does not make you a bad person. It is how you handle the doubts and the questions which makes all the difference. Here are 3 keys for handling doubt the right way.
1. Present your doubts to the Lord
The first key for handling doubts is taking our doubts to the Lord. John’s doubts are real. John doesn’t try to hide his doubts are hide himself from the Lord. He does just the opposite. He goes right to Jesus with the question. We can even say John’s question was blunt.
“Are you the Messiah, or is someone else coming?” This question is to the point. It is not hidden; it is not veiled. It is very real and honest, and Jesus’ response shows us it is okay to directly approach him with our doubts.
Jesus responds to John with much compassion and grace, as if to say, “I understand how you feel, so let me help you through it.” This is not the only time Jesus responds compassionately and graciously to someone with doubts.
He responds the same way to Thomas, who can be classified as the most famous of doubters. John 20:24-29 tells us Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appears to the disciples, and when they report the news to him, Thomas just can’t wrap his mind around it.
Verse 25 says, “But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail scars in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
Thomas’ doubt is not hidden or veiled here; it is real and bluntly presented just like John the Baptist. And, Jesus responds in the same way.
John’s Gospel goes on in verse 26: “A week later the disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”
It is as if Jesus was in the room a week earlier when Thomas expressed his doubt, and Jesus responds compassionately and graciously.
The final statement Jesus makes to Thomas in this moment is, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:26). The IVP Commentary Series states another way to think of Jesus’ words is, “Stop becoming unbelieving and become believing again.” Our Christian life is a journey of faith and seasons of doubt come, but when they do, Jesus responds with compassion and grace.
You see, it is okay to go directly to Jesus with our doubts. He even defends John. Matthew records Jesus telling the crowd they did not go out into the desert to see a man put on a good show. They went out to see a prophet. During everything John is going through, Jesus still calls him a prophet; “the Elijah” who was to come. John doesn’t lose credibility with Jesus because he presents doubts.
Likewise, we do not lose credibility with Jesus when we present doubts. He knows our hearts and minds anyway, so why try to hide the doubt? Why try to veil the very feeling which the Lord will help us work through? John presented doubts; Thomas presented doubts, and Jesus responded with compassion and grace. We can present doubts, and Jesus will respond with compassion and grace. Stop becoming unbelieving and start becoming believing again. The first key to overcoming doubt is to take it to the Lord.
2. Look Around to Overcome Doubt
The second key to overcome doubt is to look around. Jesus replies to John’s question by telling his disciples to go back and report what they see and hear. Look around at the Lord’s work.
Just step outside and look around at the workings of nature. We find the Lord’s fingerprints all over. According to Amazing Facts, here are a few places we see the Lord’s fingerprints.
- The sun is a certain distance from the Earth. If it were any closer or at a greater distance, human life could not exist.
- The Earth rotates on its axis at a certain angle. Any change in the degree of angle, and human life could not exist.
- The air we breathe is 79% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen. The slightest change would cause much difficulty for human existence.
These are just a few examples of where we see the Lord’s fingerprints. Look around in nature, and you will find the Lord at work.
Another place we see the Lord’s work is in people’s lives. How many times have you heard those stories where there is just no explanation or things worked out in just the right way?
I’ve heard the story of a son who was going to look at a race car. He was interested in purchasing the car. He and his friends started on their way, and the son realized he forgot to grab an item out of his garage. He returned home to find his dad lying on the garage floor. His father needed medical attention, and had the son not forgotten the item, no one would have known it in time.
I’ve heard a story of a lady attempting to find her sister-in-law to let her know her husband was in the emergency room in serious condition. All she knew was her sister-in-law was running errands. The lady called some local businesses searching but came up empty. After exhausting all other options, she decided to just go driving around looking. She was getting ready to pull off her street onto the highway and guess who went by – her sister-in-law. If either of these ladies had delayed driving even by seconds, they would have missed each other. Everything worked out in just the right timing.
These two stories are interwoven. They are connected by a single family. As they were anxiously awaiting news about their dad, husband, and brother, they were reflecting on the afternoon’s events. And, only one conclusion was logical. The Lord had to be with them.
We all know of stories like this. There is just no explanation except the Lord was at work. “Look around,” Jesus says to John’s disciples. Look around at how you see the Lord moving; look around at how you see the Lord working; look around.
3. Challenge Your Doubts with the Bible
Thirdly, Jesus suggests referring to Scripture to help overcome doubt.
Jesus responds to John’s disciples in part by quoting Scripture. He quoted passages of Scripture which were beginning to be fulfilled. Not every detail of the prophecy John knew had been fulfilled at this point, but it was starting to come together.
Jesus was jogging John’s memory with Scripture. He certainly knew John was aware of the Old Testament passages discussing the Messiah. Jesus pushed John to Scripture to help him overcome his doubts.
Allow your doubts to push you to Scripture. Allow Scripture to challenge your doubts. Allow yourself to be open-minded enough to ponder the claims of Scripture. In doing so, your doubts may start to erode. After all, what do you have to lose besides doubts?
John the Baptist was a strong person of faith. He was the forerunner for Jesus, yet he had a season in life when he doubted. Doubt is certainly a part of many Christians journey; however, how the Christian responds to doubt makes the difference. These three keys will help overcome the season of doubt.
All three of these keys will only work if there is a willingness on our part to give them an opportunity. If you find yourself in a season of doubt today, why don’t you give them a shot? We asked this earlier, but what do you have to lose – besides doubts?