Matthew 11:2-3 (NKJV)
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
When John the Baptist was a baby in his mother’s womb and she received a visit from Mary who was pregnant with Jesus, the Messiah, we are told that “the baby leapt in her womb” Luke 1:41
As an adult, John the Baptist preached and taught people about Jesus and then baptised him. We are told that immediately after he baptised Jesus the following took place –
Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:16-17 NKJV
So it would appear that John the Baptist was for most of his life, in no doubt, that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God.
So why the doubts and the questions in Matthew 11:2-3? John was now languishing in prison facing a beheading. Perhaps he was being tortured, perhaps he wasn’t getting very much food and sleep? All of these things can play tricks with our minds, truths we were once sure of can suddenly become very uncertain.
What has all this got to do with me?
I’ve been a committed Christian since 1980. I love Bible study. I don’t just go to church – I also love to go to conferences where the Bible is taught. I especially love to study the Bible myself at home. I listen to online sermons from preachers such as John Piper, R. T. Kendall and Tim Keller. I have always engaged in Scripture memorisation and practised “hiding God’s Word within my heart“. Psalm 119:11
When Leah was dying in ICU a woman in my sister in law’s church took to sending me an encouraging Bible verse every day such as Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I used to just focus on a verse like this and repeat it over and over in my head. For two and a half weeks the doctors were telling me that Leah was more than likely not going to recover. I didn’t allow my mind to wander into the “what it’s” or the “what could happen” – I tried to remain very focussed on the present. Fixing my mind on encouraging Bible verses helped me.
However, a short term crisis is one thing, surviving the long haul is quite another.
Living with grief and loss is certainly a long road.
In my grief and in my loss I can quickly start to feel like John the Baptist felt when he was in prison.
In the hours when grief takes over, I don’t actually doubt the existence of God, I just doubt that life can ever become any better than living every day with this intensity of pain and sorrow.
When the waves of grief crash over my soul, threatening to hold me for ever in their clutches, I find myself at times unable to cling to those amazing Bible verses that for so many years have been my bedrock.
In those moments, all I want to do is get into bed, pull the covers over me, and never face the world again. That shocks me, because I’m not used to feeling like this.
I’m learning many lessons on this journey – most are ones that I would never have chosen to learn.
I’m learning that sometimes those truths that I am so sure of on my better days, can be much harder to hold on to on the really bad days. Even that realisation has been a shock to my system.
Nevertheless, every morning my alarm goes off at 6am and I quietly slip out of bed and head downstairs to spend time with God in Bible study and prayer. I once heard Joyce Meyer say that she would rather be ‘sleep deprived‘ than ‘God deprived‘ and I thought that was a good way of looking at it!
The Israelites were told to gather their manna daily and I too must seek strength daily for this journey that at times threatens to overwhelm me.
I will close with a beautiful hymn that we sang many years ago at my father’s funeral. These words have often brought me comfort:
Just a Closer Walk With Thee
I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.