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?”
There are times when life just doesn’t make sense to us. It’s not that we expect life to be perfect or that we don’t expect there to be difficulties. By God’s grace, we are willing to endure hardship for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom. But, some things in our life just seem flat-out meaningless.
How is this particular trial, in any way, going to expand God’s kingdom? In what way is it helpful to anyone if my chronic illness keeps me from serving God and the church the way that I would like to? How does our miscarriage serve any purpose? Why would God take someone that was so dear to so many? Why does God Himself seem to be opposed to me at my every step? How is my ongoing struggle with finances good for the kingdom when I just want enough to be able to follow God’s calling on my life? If the Holy Spirit Himself is dwelling in me and has made me a new creature in Christ, why, and for what great purpose, am I plagued with a never-ending struggle with sin? I know I won’t be perfect in this life, but why wouldn’t God set me free from this sin that affects myself, my family, and my ministry? I don’t at all expect life to be just smooth sailing but if God is in control and He is for me, is it too much to expect that things would at least make some sense? There are times in our life that things are just flat out confusing.
The Bible doesn’t spell out for us why John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was really the Messiah. But, it is clear that this is a drastic shift for John. For John to be questioning Jesus was nothing short of tragic, a crisis of faith if you will. John was the one that was born for the very purpose of preparing the way for Jesus. Likely, his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth taught him from a young age the purposes that God had for him. Before John was even born, the Holy Spirit had revealed to Elizabeth that Mary’s child Jesus was the Messiah.
When Jesus began his earthly ministry, it began with John baptizing him. God had given John a sign for him to know with certainty who the messiah was (John 1:33). John, without reservation or hesitation or any ambiguity declared to the people that Jesus was the Messiah. John spoke of Jesus so highly that it seemed clear that John knew that Jesus was not simply a great man but much more. And as Jesus came into the public eye, John was eager for Jesus’ fame to increase, even though it required that John’s role must decrease (John 3:30). John was eager to sacrifice for the sake of Christ. John was not expecting a life of glory and fame.
But, even for John, there came a point in life where things just didn’t make sense. Sure, life wasn’t going to be without difficulty. Sure, his role was one of preparing the way for someone greater. But, if Jesus had come as the messiah, why would that lead to him being in prison (and eventually beheaded)? John wasn’t trying to steal fame from Jesus, but only sought to point to him as the very “lamb of God”. How did it make any sense for him to be in prison when, after all these centuries, the promised Messiah was actually here (the one who would set the prisoners free)? John wasn’t expecting fame and fortune for himself, but come on, prison? Really? After giving years of his life preparing the way for the Messiah, now the Messiah is here, and he’s in prison? How does this make any sense???
Even for the greatest prophet that ever was, there came a time when life just didn’t make any sense. The confusion led to his faith really being shaken. He began to doubt whether Jesus was the Messiah. I wonder if we know what it’s like to be so confused by life that we question the truth of the gospel?
My encouragement to you isn’t to offer a clear answer to the extremely difficult seasons and questions of life. My encouragement to you is that it’s ok to wonder why. My encouragement to you (and me) is to be open with your struggles with God and with others. It’s ok to acknowledge that things don’t make sense to you.
I trust that God ultimately sustained John’s faith, and I trust that God will sustain your faith and mine. God doesn’t stop what he starts. Life doesn’t always make sense, but by faith, even in the midst of the greatest confusion, we can declare with our whole heart that God is good (that even if he slay us we will praise Him). And, unlike John, we have so much more abundant revelation of God’s salvation. We know that (somehow) all things work together for good! We live looking back to the cross and the resurrection! We live knowing that death has already been defeated and the battle has already been won!
In times of confusion, look up. Look to your Heavenly Father, look to the cross. Continue to cry out to Him and to be open with your struggles. And know that the Holy Spirit is with you and will protect and will keep you and will sustain your faith.
If you have put your faith in Christ, you are loved with a perfect and never-ending love.