“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Luke 7:23)
Doubt comes as shadowy, illusive thoughts fluttering around in our minds that escape when we let our self-righteous guard down. When that happens, we are suddenly shocked, especially when Satan whispers, “Is that the way a Christian thinks?” But to doubt is human, even among so-called great humans. After all, if the man Jesus referred to as having no equal when it came to greatness, was a doubter (v. 28), why should you or I be surprised to find doubt alive and well in our own lives of faith? This is not to say that it should be allowed to thrive and flourish, however, and finding its root would seem to be a good place to start.
You would have thought that Jesus’ failure to work any miracles would have given John the Baptist reason to doubt His credentials; but, on the contrary, it was after he heard of His successes that John sent his disciples to Jesus with the question, “Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” (v. 19). The pivotal words in this story to me, however, is this seemingly irrelevant beatitude spoken by Jesus: “[B]lessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” The root of his problem, He seems to be saying, is that John was offended. While Jesus was working miracles for others, John was languishing in prison. While their pleas for deliverance were being answered, his were seemingly being ignored.
And John’s problem is our problem. God’s omniscient power is never more real to us than when it is working on our behalf and especially in response to our requests. And, by contrast, His power—and yes, His love—are never less obvious to us than when we seem to be falling behind others in answered prayers. The fact that whole ministries are built on testimonies of great answers to prayer, only serves to feed this distorted view of God’s love.
The idea that answered prayer is an indication of acceptance by God, and vice versa, is laid to rest, however, when we remember Jesus in Gethsemane. His cry of “Why hast thou forsaken” was not directed to a Father who did not love Him. You may argue that in that case, the will of God was the overriding factor. And I will counter by asking if that should not be the overriding factor in our case, too.
It is possible to doubt not only the love of God, but His reliability, as well. And if we do, it will not be because He is untrue, but because we think He has been unfair. Doubt is more individual than intellectual. At least, that is what I take away from this story of John the Baptist—and my own experience. This beatitude of Jesus should be taken as seriously as His others. I never want to take offense with God for His dealing in my life and doubt His love for me. I want to be one of the blessed ones.
Faith is not belief without proof but trust without reservations. – Alister McGrath