When Hope Transcends Doubt
- Lee Strobel Author
- 2015 2 Nov
“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see.” Jesus in Luke 24:38–39
If anybody should have been immune to spiritual doubt, it would be John the Baptist. The Bible says of John: “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light,” meaning Jesus, the Light of the World. John did this “so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light” (John 1:7–8).
In fact, John’s whole life was about paving the way for Jesus. He confidently pointed to Jesus and declared, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He baptized Jesus and then witnessed the heavens open up and God proclaim, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).
John was also the prophet who, in the face of strong opposition from the religious leaders concerning Jesus, defiantly declared, “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (John 1:34). I don’t think you could have found a bolder or more powerful witness for Jesus than John the Baptist.
Yet some time later, after John had been arrested by King Herod and was wallowing in prison as he awaited execution, questions began to swirl in John’s mind. Suddenly he wasn’t so sure about Jesus anymore. Gradually, the prophet who had brought so many people hope was finding himself drained of hope, and he reached out for reassurance.
The Gospel writer Luke described how John sent two of his friends to track down Jesus and ask him pointblank, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:20). That was John’s way of saying, “I used to be convinced you were the Messiah, but now . . . Well, I’m wondering . . . .” It would be easy to be critical of John the Baptist if we weren’t so much like him! How utterly human it is to plummet from the mountaintops of spiritual certainty to the depths of doubt and despair. How normal it is to feel one moment like an invincible carrier of God’s hope and the next to feel completely hopeless. We see this happen to many of the Bible’s heroes, including Abraham, Moses, King David, Elijah, Peter on the night of Jesus’ arrest, and the so-called Doubting Thomas after Jesus rose from the dead.
I know I’ve gone through bouts of doubt that felt like they could be lethal to my faith. How about you?
Perhaps you’ve questioned whether God has really forgiven you or whether he can keep forgiving you when, as a Christian, you’ve failed to do what you knew he was telling you to do. Or you’ve wondered whether the Bible can be trusted. Or you can’t reconcile the world’s suffering with a loving God. Or you’ve read an article by a skeptical scientist or liberal theologian that kicked the legs of your faith right out from under you.
The truth is that a spiritual virus has been going around Christian circles for centuries, and it’s called doubt. If you haven’t caught it yet, you probably will at some point. In fact, I’m convinced that we could divide Christians into three groups. The first would consist of those who have doubted. The second would be those who haven’t doubted yet but who will. The third group would be those who have completely shut off their brains!
If you’re a thinking person—if you seriously contemplate your faith and what it means to follow Jesus—then chances are that every once in a while you’re going to come down with the virus and have some troubling questions, issues, concerns, uncertainties, or hesitations.
By the way, this is not just a Christian phenomenon. As a former atheist, I can personally testify that atheists also doubt their position from time to time. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.”2 Even the most doubtful of doubters will sometimes doubt their own doubts!
So the issue isn’t whether you will catch the doubt virus; we’re all infected to some degree. The real question is this: How can we prevent that virus from turning into a virulent disease that ultimately ravages our faith? Or perhaps this is a better question: How can we respond to our doubts in ways that will help us emerge even stronger as a result? As incredible as it sounds, a bout of doubt may turn out to be one of the healthiest and most hope-inspiring experiences you’ll ever go through.
Lee Strobel was the award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune and is the best- selling author of The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ, and The Case for a Creator, all of which have been made into documentaries by Lionsgate. With a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale, Lee wrote 3 Gold Medallion winners and the 2005 Book of the Year with Gary Poole. He and his wife live in Texas. Visit Lee's website at: www.leestrobel.com.
Publication date: November 2, 2015