A few weeks ago, we discussed John the Baptist, who said some awesome things when he baptized Jesus. At first, John was reluctant even to baptize the Lord, and said that Jesus ought to baptize him instead. Then he said that Jesus is “the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” And finally John said, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon [Jesus]….he is the Son of God.”
So, it’s pretty clear that John the Baptist knew without a doubt that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior of the World. But we often forget what happened to John later on. After he was arrested and imprisoned by Herod, John sent some of his followers to Jesus with this question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
Whoa, wait a minute. John the Baptist doubted Jesus? He really wasn’t sure anymore if Jesus was the Messiah?
What a surprise. John actually had doubts about Jesus’ identity, even after earlier proclaiming forcefully that Jesus is definitely the one true Messiah Israel had been waiting for.
Instead of being shocked by John’s doubt, we should be glad. If someone as great as John the Baptist had occasional doubts about his faith, then we shouldn’t get too worried when our faith gets weak.
Now, of course, I’m not referring to situations where people completely lose their faith. Unfortunately, there are many folks in our secular, cynical culture who have decided that God probably does not exist and therefore all religious doctrines are silly fairy tales. They have rejected and renounced the faith and walked away from all church activities.
When I say we should be glad that John the Baptist had doubts, I mean it’s encouraging for us when we have temporary doubts, occasional confusion, or periods of listlessness regarding our faith. And let’s be honest: that happens fairly often. I’m not hesitant to admit that my faith gets weak at times. The primary reason I am not hesitant to admit it is because I’m in good company. Besides John the Baptist, we also know that Mother Teresa experienced times in her saintly life when she wasn’t sure if God was there for her.
Once in a while I wake up on a Sunday morning and say to myself, “Why bother going to Mass today? It doesn’t really matter.” I usually force myself to go, just out of habit. And quite often when I get to church, someone or something gives me an unexpected emotional boost, and I get a little bit inspired and glad that I went.
There are many reasons to have doubts nowadays. The never-ending Church scandals are very discouraging; the secular culture constantly preaches that religious faith is a sign of ignorance; and well, maybe it’s just really cold outside on a particular Sunday morning and you’d rather stay in bed than go to Mass.
Regardless of why we may have doubts about our faith, the important thing is how we handle those doubts. Some people simply choose to give up and stop thinking about it. John the Baptist was not one of those people. He sent messengers to Jesus with a blunt question: Are you the one or not?
Mother Teresa didn’t give up either. Even when she could not feel the presence of God at all, she carried on each day, serving the poor and doing what God had called her to do years earlier.
When we have doubts, we have to do the same. First, ask questions. The more you inquire about the doctrines of Christianity, the more you’ll realize they’re true. Second, continue to do what is right, even if you don’t feel like it. Eventually, the period of doubt will pass, and you’ll regain the joy and wonder the comes with knowing Christ. And if it’s really cold out on a Sunday morning, just put on an extra sweater and get your butt to Mass.