Let’s face it. Life is HARD. As God’s children, the Bible tells us that we are in a battle, a race, and we’re fighting and running toward the new home that awaits us. We seek guidance from God in this life full of twists and turns. The story of Christian on the road to the Celestial City comes to mind. He is solicited by many people with many options that supposedly lead him to happiness. Through prayer and reading God’s Word expectantly, we navigate the path through this world. We do our best to live in obedience by God’s Grace. We have peace, knowing that God has promised to care for us, to provide for our needs (both physical and spiritual), and to lead us by His Spirit. Suddenly things change. Life gets a wrench thrown in it, and it seems that chaos ensues. The world that we know comes crashing down around us. We are tempted to ask “God, what are You doing?!”
Can I do that? Can I question God’s working in my life? When I pray to God, I have always had this sense of awe to be in His presence through prayer. I often feel like David, when he says in Psalm 8:3-4, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” I believe that it is appropriate to come before God in a prostrate fashion. After all, He is the Creator of all things (Gen. 1:1), the King above all gods (Ps. 95:3), the Holy, Holy, Holy LORD of hosts (Isa. 6:3), the Great I AM (Ex. 3:14). For a long time I felt as if it would be highly inappropriate to ask God why He did the things He did. I felt as if I should come before Him strong in my faith and unquestioning of His acts.
Looking back, it seems silly to me that I would try to hide my feelings of distress and questions from God when I prayed; but my reasoning was born out of a love and adoration for God. I know, however, that God already knows my thoughts and feelings, and I know that He loves me even in my weakness. I don’t have to put on a show for God. It’s not like I really could anyway.
As I read through the Bible, I see many examples of men that questioned God and received answers. They had doubts and fears, but they knew who had the answers.
One such example is John the Baptist. As I read through Matthew 11, an event happens that draws attention to itself. Let’s see what happens…
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”Matthew 11:2-3 ESV
What was John asking here? He’s asking if Jesus is truly the Messiah! He’s saying, “Jesus, are you the promised Messiah that I’ve been preaching about? Or should I be looking for someone else?” Now, this sounds like a harsh question. I don’t think John meant it to be, and I don’t believe it shows the lack of faith that it sounds like it does. John was looking for some guidance and comfort, and there are a couple major reasons why.
First, John was in prison. Luke 3:18-20 gives us a little look into why John was thrown in prison. John offended Herod the tetrarch when he rebuked Herod for taking his brother’s wife, Herodias, and also for the other evil deeds he had committed. John would stay in prison until he was put to death by beheading. This was an earth-shaking turn of events for John. He was the one called to pave the way before Christ and to proclaim His Name! Now, he was sitting inside a prison cell.
Secondly, John was hearing about all the things that Jesus was doing, and these things confused him. This didn’t appear at first glance to be the Christ that John had been preaching about. Let’s see what John preached about Jesus:
“But when he [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance… Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”Matthew 3:7-8, 10-12 ESV
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
John preached of a Messiah who was to come and separate the wheat from the chaff and to bring judgement on those who didn’t repent! This was all true, but it wasn’t going to happen in the time that John had imagined. I believe John knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but he was confused by what he was hearing and needed some clarification. The Bible tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even while still in the womb. John was a bold preacher for Jesus! So how does Jesus respond to John’s question?
Jesus gives John the promises of His Word found in the Scriptures. Let’s look at what Jesus says in response:
And 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.”Matthew 11:4-5 ESV
The answer that Jesus gave was almost a direct quotation from the Scripture that He read in the Synagogue when he announced Himself in Luke 4:16-21. The Scripture Jesus reads comes from the Isaiah the prophet.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
So, Jesus tells John, “Look at the Scripture, John. You can trust in my promises, see?” He was giving John comfort through His Word. I’m sure that John took comfort in it too. He knew the promises, he knew that Jesus was the One, the Messiah; but he just needed a gentle reminder.
One of the things that threw the Jews off about Jesus was that He wasn’t the Messiah of their imaginations. They expected a political ruler, a king, a conqueror who would save them from the persecution of their oppressors. Jesus came as a humble man, a servant, a healer of the sick and weak. John and the Jews weren’t totally wrong. Those things are prophesied about Christ, and will come to pass, but the Jews were offended by the humble servant that Christ was in His human form. This was prophesied as well in Isaiah 8:14, “And he will become a santuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” This is why Jesus ends His gentle reminder to John with another: “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Mat. 11:6)
I take a lot of comfort in this passage because of the way that Jesus responds to John’s question. John was asking something that he already knew, but he was crying out to Jesus for help, because he just wasn’t seeing it. Jesus didn’t rebuke John. He didn’t chastise him. In fact, if you read down into Matthew 11, you’ll see that Jesus actually commends John. Jesus simply gave John a gentle, loving reminder from His Word.
Have you found yourself with similar feelings to John’s? You know that God is in control; that He loves you and is taking care of you, but you just aren’t seeing it. It’s alright to ask God questions. He loves you, and already knows your feelings. Then, when you go to Him in prayer and ask Him for the answer, go to His Word and see what He says. So often, He’s already given us the answers. We just need a gentle reminder of His promises to help our faith. What a wonderful, powerful and loving example of Jesus speaking to John with His Word.
Are you broken, distraught, or confused? Go to God’s Word. Pray. Ask for His guidance! He has promised that He will never leave you, will never forget you, and will never fail you! Take comfort in God’s Word today friend. God bless you!