The way some televangelists and certain denominations tell it, all one has to do is “accept Jesus” and one’s life will be perfect from then on.
Where does that leave those of us who have struggled along our faith pilgrimages with doubts and fears – sometimes feeling very close to God, while at other times only too keenly aware of his absence?
Are there lessons we can learn from the Bible that will help when the faith journey is all up hill, with no crest in sight?
We are all too familiar with the giants of faith like Abraham, Joseph, Ruth and Esther – and so many others who never seem to have any doubts, no matter what difficulties they encounter. But do we sufficiently remember “Doubting” Thomas or the fearful Peter, who actually denied even knowing Christ, only to again become a leader among the apostles?
We should also consider the numerous Psalms that cry out to God and wonder where he is. Some of the best examples might be 10, 13, 22 and 74. See particularly psalm 13:1-2:“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Given the events surrounding the birth and ministry of John the Baptist, related in the first chapter of Luke, it is quite a shock to see him sending disciples to Jesus in chapter 7, to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Previous to this, John had fully embraced his ministry as Christ’s forerunner, had baptized him and seen the Holy Spirit descend on him, and had specifically pointed him out as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John. 1:29). Yet we find him subsequently expressing these doubts about him. If such a thing could happen to John the Baptist, is it any wonder that we too sometimes experience a lack of faith?
In 1 Kings 19, we find the great prophet Elijah, who, with God’s direct intervention, has just won an astounding victory over the prophets of Baal in the preceding chapter, now filled with fear and deep depression. Notwithstanding God’s repeated protection and provision for him, he is now petrified at the thought of possible revenge by the wicked Queen Jezebel. Even after escaping possible capture at her hands, he actually lays down and asks God to let him die! Only when God then sends ravens to bring him food does his spirit revive.
How many times have you confronted an overwhelming circumstance where you were doubtful of any possible help from God, despite many past examples, only to have a completely unexpected resolution suddenly appear? How much we are so often like the father of the apparently epileptic boy, who is healed by Jesus in Mark 9; when asked if he really believes that the Lord can cure his son, he responds, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Indeed, we are blessed to have a God who is a God of second chances: “For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). We are also promised that “a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3). For those of us who still struggle along the journey of faith – even when discouraged – it is God’s gentle hand which will lead us to our true and eternal home.