“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
The questioner who is so confused he doesn’t know if Jesus is the messiah, the man who’s being eaten alive by doubt and misgiving is none other than John the Baptist. What turned the fiery shouter into a doubter? He’s ended up in prison for challenging king Herod, and when you’re in the dungeon staring down a death sentence, things look a little different.
Jesus’ answer comes back to the jail cell. “Can’t you see, John?—look at my ministry. The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear.” I imagine John muttering to himself, That’s great—I’m glad for all those people you’ve cleansed and healed. But what about me? Have you forgotten me?
That is the question we all ask in the dark. Does suffering separate me from a loving God?
In her book, “Two Part Invention,” Madeleine L’Engle tells the story of her marriage to Hugh Franklin and the illness that took his life. After a harrowing surgery Hugh returns home to begin a long recovery, and a few days later L’Engle must leave for a conference of Christian booksellers. There, she writes, “I hear people tell of some good or lucky event and then say, ‘Surely the Lord was with me.’ And my hackles go up. . . .” “My husband is desperately ill, so where is the Lord? . . . Doesn’t such an attitude trivialize the activities and concerns of the Maker? Doesn’t it imply that God is with us only during the good and fortuitous times and withdraws and abandons us when things go wrong?”
She concludes, “I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when the good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness.”