When in doubt, look up and around …
Who has not, at one point or another, looked back and doubted a decision made? Who has not once said: “I am not sure I did or said the right thing!” All of us have been in this situation. Even John the Baptist, Jesus’s cousin, had a similar experience. Remember how, at the baptism of Jesus, he firmly proclaimed him as one who was coming after him and how unworthy he was to untie the straps of his sandals (Luke 3:16). Remember the dialogue between the two when Jesus came to be baptized. John did not want to baptize Jesus because he knew the Messiah was higher than him. But Jesus answered him: “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Walking with his own disciples one day, he saw Jesus and pointed at him, saying to his disciples: “There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. It is he of whom I said: a man comes after me who is already ahead of me …” (John 1: 29-30). John was not in doubt as to whom Jesus was. He knew he was the Messiah; he knew Jesus was mightier than himself. John knew that since Jesus, the Messiah, had appeared, he must decrease so that Jesus would increase (John 3:30)).
But now, John was arrested and imprisoned for speaking the truth against Herod, who unlawfully took his brother’s wife as his own. In the prison, John’s mind began to raise all kinds of questions. The adversity of the prison had gotten to him. So, when his disciples came to visit him in prison, he asked them to ask Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). This question from the mouth of John the Baptist is so surprising since he was the one who proclaimed him as the ONE at the very beginning. What has changed? What made him doubt whether Jesus was the One?
Who among us has not doubted in times of adversity? Who has been able to remain calm in times of pain and agony of the mind, heart, or body? Under the pain of crucifixion, Jesus himself doubted when he groaned: “Father, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46).
In such moments of doubt arising from our experience of pain, disappointment, agony, betrayal, sickness, loss, and suffering, Jesus invites us to look up and around and see that even the pain does not eclipse the light of God’s goodness in our lives. Jesus assured John that he was the One; and the goodness of God shining in his works prove this: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life…” and on and on (Matthew 11: 4-5). That is why we can rejoice in the middle of this anxious waiting of the advent season. We can rejoice because God continues to work miracles in our lives. Our sufferings can so possess our minds, hearts, and souls that we doubt all that we had learned of the goodness and love of God. It is the truth of life.
May we pray for the courage and faith to be able to look up and around us and see the shining light of God’s goodness in our lives, especially when we are in so much physical and emotional pain. Only then can we honestly say that God is indeed good, ALL THE TIME!
~Fr Cornelius Okeke