“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” – Matthew 11:3
This poignant question from the heart of John the Baptist in prison was carried by his disciples to Jesus. John had looked into the eyes of Jesus, had touched him, baptized him, known him to be filled with goodness. Yet, in a moment of crisis, in a time of dread, during long weeks of isolation and pain, that huge crying-out question leapt up in John. It seared his throat and gasped for an answer. Strong words pressed against his faltering faith: “Tell me that you are the one. Tell me that you are.”
We also have our John the Baptist moments. They come when we are in the prison of our own life struggles with despair, discouragement, and desolation. Like John, we can trust and love, believe and hope, and know that God is real and near. But when those terrifying times of emptiness and pain come, no matter how strong the love we have known, we can also cry out, hesitate to hope, and question what we have believed: “What is this all about? Where are you, God, when I need you most?” Like John the Baptist, we send the plea: “Tell me that you are the one. Send assurance that my hope in you is valid.”
The response that Jesus sent back to John in prison is also the one that is given to us in our difficult times: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (Matthew 11:4-6). In other words, Jesus was reminding John to recall what he had seen in the past and not to doubt it. Jesus was saying, “Don’t let your emotions overpower you. Recall the goodness you have experienced in our relationship in the past. Trust my love for you even if I am not rescuing you from your prison of troubles.”
Jesus says much the same to us: “Remember that I have been with you as the source of life and love. Look at those who stand by you. My Spirit is alive in them. I love you through their kindness and care. Notice the little, overlooked gifts of life that are in each day. I can assure you that I care for you by the love that comes to you through even the tiniest thing that brings you comfort and relief.”
God is with us. We need to keep on discovering how this loving presence is part of our lives. When we doubt this presence, we can send our messengers of prayer and a listening heart to God and wait for the reply. It will probably come in an unanticipated insight or through an unexpected person. We send our messengers. And then, we wait, trusting that there will be a response.
From Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems and Reflections for Every Season by Joyce Rupp
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