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Lead Me On: When Doubt Dominates

When we express our doubts, we’re in faithful company

Fish sticker on the car bumper? Check.

Kid who can buzz in with "begotten!" for VBS Bible relay? Check.

Woman who should know better but still, sometimes, just a little, wonders? About, um, God?


There. I said it.

I'm just mentioning it for a friend. Not for me. That would be ridiculous.

I do not doubt! Geesh. Sometimes, however, on occasion, when things are confusing, I might mention aloud something like this, "But. God. You're, ah, real. Right?"

Doubt. It happens to the best of us.

We would all like to sustain a deliberate walk. A steadfast faith. Not even perfect–just forward trajectory at least, please.

But this is earth, not heaven. This place is rough. It can be confusing. Even for steadfast giants in the faith. Like John the Baptist.

John the Baptist said a lot of bold things. He behaved in a lot of bold ways. But the quote from him that stopped me in my tracks came after his locust-eating, itchy clothes-wearing, preaching-for-Jesus extravaganza–as he sat in jail.

This great man called his disciples over and had them ask Jesus this one question: Are you the one?

When the men approached Jesus, they told Jesus that John the Baptist had sent them to ask, "Are you the Messiah we've been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?"

It is written in the gospel of Matthew (11:3) and then it is written again in the gospel of Luke (7:20). John the Baptist dared to boldface, irreverently, go to God and…ask: Are you the one?

What kind of man does that?

A human.

Attempting to be in this world but not of this world. Sweaty. Stretched thin. Stressed out.

Do you ever feel doubt? Don't panic. We stand in good company.

I appreciate when Bible people show their vulnerable walks in this life and with their God. It gives me the idea that their God is not so … moody. That He is not waiting with a paddle stick when we just ask a question. Like, "Hello? God? Are you there? It's me, John. So…I believed you. And that wasn't a bad idea or anything. Right?"

Their vulnerable walks reflect a God who says to us by saying to them, You are not less in My eyes because you are frail. Bruised. In need of clarification.

This is a God of reassurance.

Jesus replied, "Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen…" (Matthew 11:4)

The text doesn't mention John's reaction. As for me, I had a hard time getting past the detail that John was in jail. JAIL. If it is true that "now our knowledge is partial and incomplete…" (1 Corinthians 13:9) then I would start with that part right there–the part of HE'S IN JAIL.

Jesus told them to report to John "…what you have heard and seen." Um. Wouldn't John prefer a report of "Here's the key to get OUT OF JAIL?"

This story reminds me of Job, an Old Testament guy who was in a bad (very bad) way and he brought his questions to God and God spoke back and we think, "Blech, this God is being just so awful to let this stuff happen to Job."

We all think that. Who wouldn't?

Well. Actually, Job.

Job, like John the Baptist, seemed to be asking for the same thing: reassurance. Are you the one? Have I picked the wrong God?

Jesus' response to John the Baptist went on with this: "The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor" (Matthew 11:5).

In other words: look what I'm doing, John. Isn't this what the prophecies said you would see the Messiah doing?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Seeing God act like God can throw us. It is sometimes not what we thought we would see. We are to walk by faith, not by sight, because sight can be so…confusing. Our faith calls out for encouragement sometimes because of our sight. When our circumstances look wrong, we need reassurance. Something that makes sense in our context. Something personal.

In Job's case, God responded to Job and then Job said to God, "I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me… I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes" (Job 42:3-5).


God offers that same reassurance today.

And the sight of it can still throw me.

For instance, I am involved with a human rights agency that rescues victims of slavery and sexual exploitation.

Sounds awful (and it is), but they have God-glorifying, awe-inspiring success stories of rescue, relief, restoration.

However, this is where my doubts flare up worst of all. Because while the rescued feel overpowering JOY, I feel confused.

So I bring it to God.

"God? These are your babies. Why did this happen at all? Why didn't you save them…sooner?"

That kind of candor can be annoying. Maybe I am getting God mad. But he does not treat me that way.

In all my life, I will never wrap my head around the torture that happens in this world and a God who does not intervene with an earthly version of rescue every single time. However, when I bring my doubts to God, his responses are personal. He gives me insight. Not fully, but I do see.

I see that God is who he says he is.

The victims' joy and subsequent faith in God testifies to this. Just this month, 179 people were rescued from an oppressive brick factory in South Asia. One of the rescued exclaimed: "Today I believe God is alive, in different shapes and in different people."

I'm not exactly in a position to…doubt.

Meanwhile, as we carefully comb our hair and brush our teeth and show up to gatherings appearing every inch the faithful believer, let us forgo our dedication to look like "shiny" Christians. (But brush your teeth still. Because, otherwise, well, gross.)

Just don't be afraid to let doubt look like doubt. It does not panic God. After all, he is the one who put John the Baptist's doubtful dialogue in the Bible for us to read.


On the other side of doubt can be understanding. God can take it! You may be showing him your confidence. Because what kind of God can withstand doubt?

One that's real.

# # # #

Janelle Alberts is a freelance PR and media relations specialist and has managed communication needs for clients such as Microsoft, Wells Fargo and UPS. She started her first religious column in 2010 for the Akron Beacon Journal and has since written for Atlanta Parent Magazine, Christianity Today's women's online sections, and Catholic News Service among others.

June23, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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