Sometimes my faith shakes when my dreams are shattered.
I wonder where God is in the midst of my suffering. I cannot sense his presence. I feel alone and afraid. My faith wavers. I question what I have long believed. I wonder what is real, especially when my experience doesn’t match my expectations.
This wavering deeply troubles me. I have tasted God’s goodness, enjoyed close fellowship with him, rested in his tender care. I have known both his power and his love. Yet in the midst of profound struggle, I have no answers. Just questions.
John the Baptist understood this struggle as he waited in prison. He, above all men, knew who Jesus was. Even in the womb, he leapt for joy in the presence of the unborn Savior. At the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, before any of his miracles, John declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He baptized Jesus and saw God’s Spirit descend on him, testifying that he indeed was the Son of God.
And yet, at the height of Jesus’s ministry, John sent word to him from prison, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2–3). At one point, John was sure that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus further confirmed his divinity by performing miracles, yet now John was wondering what was true.
John knew from Scripture that he who gave the blind sight, made the lame walk, and preached good news to the poor could surely “open the prison of those who were bound” as prophesied in Isaiah 61:1. But Jesus didn’t do that for John.
So perhaps at this point, John doubted what he knew. If Jesus was indeed the Messiah, John probably expected to have a role in his earthly kingdom. He wouldn’t have expected to start with such a high calling, preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness, only to end his life and his ministry in a small prison cell. Besides, John preached that the Messiah would come with an unquenchable fire. With judgment. With power. He likely expected that to be in his lifetime.
None of those expectations coincided with reality. And that may have caused John to doubt. Unfulfilled expectations often elicit that response in me. Especially when I’ve been faithful. Jesus doesn’t condemn John for his doubts. He even says that no one greater than John has ever lived. He understands why John is asking the question. And Jesus’s response to him reinforces what John already knows: that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.
At the same time, Jesus knows that John’s public ministry is over. Just like the saints in Hebrews 11, John wouldn’t receive all God’s promises but could only greet them from afar. He would not serve with Jesus on earth or see the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. But one day he would. One day he would see his glorious part in God’s magnificent plan. He, the last of the old covenant prophets, would see how God used him to prepare the world to receive Jesus. And John would rejoice.
But for now, John has to accept the Messiah’s plans for his life. Plans that are different than what he envisioned. He has to dwell on what he knows to be true rather than fixate on his circumstances. He has to remember who God is and trust him from a dark prison.
And so it is with me.
When Your Plans Crumble
When my plans crumble and God takes me away from my dreams, I must trust in God’s infinite wisdom. When my cup of suffering seems too much to bear, I need to rest in his immeasurable love. When my life spins out of control, I need to remember God’s absolute sovereignty.
I may not understand what is happening. But I cannot stop talking to him. Or turn away in fear. I must simply go to Jesus and tell him my doubts. Ask him to help me see.
John’s doubts are the same as mine. I wonder if God is who he says he is. And if everything is under his control. And if he truly loves me. And when I doubt, God calls me, as he did John, to trust what I know to be true. To trust the bedrock principles that I know from Scripture and from experience. That God is completely sovereign. And loving. And wise. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will.
In this life, I may never see how God is using my trials. But one day I will be grateful for them. All I can do now is trust that he who made the lame walk and the blind see, who died on a cross so I could spend eternity with him, is going to do the very best thing for me.
It all comes down to trust. Will I trust my circumstances that constantly change? Or will I trust God who is unchanging?
On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.
This article first appeared on Desiring God. It is also included in my book, The Scars that have Shaped Me: How God Meets us in Suffering.