The Prison of Doubt

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

Have you ever found yourself in a season of doubt?

The kind of season where everything around you feels dark. The light you could once see so brightly, now seems to have faded.

You wonder if God is really there. Does He see you? Doesn’t He know what you’re going through?

The path you were on seemed so clear and firm. But now the path has disappeared and it feels like you’re sinking.

Sinking into disappointment.

Sinking into discouragement.

Sinking into despair.

And then your weary mind is flooded with questions…

Are you sure this is where you called me, Jesus?

Did I not hear you right?

This isn’t where I thought I’d be right now.

Have you abandoned me?

Do you even hear me?

John the Baptist was asking some similar questions when he found himself in prison.

Ummm….prison?

You mean the one who was called to prepare the way for Jesus?

In prison?

Yes. That’s where he was.

He sent two of his disciples to find Jesus and ask him point blank:

Are you the one who was to come? 

This is where he is doubting whether or not Jesus is truly the Messiah.

Should we expect someone else?

As if the first question wasn’t clear enough, this one surely grabbed his attention!

John’s entire ministry pointed others to the coming Messiah. His assignment was to prepare the way for Jesus. If he got this wrong, then everything he did would be in vain. He would have been guilty of leading so many others astray.

He couldn’t live with that. He knew his days were limited. (When prophets rebuke kings, it usually didn’t go very well.)

So he had to know the answer to his final question.

Did he get it wrong? Was Jesus really who He said He was?

Dear friends, we often find ourselves in similar situations. We may not find ourselves in a physical prison awaiting execution. But we find ourselves in a different type of prison…

We might feel trapped in a marriage that  started off on the right path, but now is falling apart.

We may have taken that dream job but now it feels like an absolute nightmare.

We poured so much into our kids but now they are wandering off, making poor choices.

Or maybe someone you trusted has betrayed you and you feel stuck in a prison of bitterness.

Whatever it is you’re doubting, you are most certainly not alone. We all have seasons of doubt. We all have those moments when we are afraid to even admit we doubt God’s presence in our lives.

After reading back through the passage where John the Baptist is doubting who Jesus is, he gets his answer.

Jesus sends those disciples back to John with exactly what he needs to hear. Don’t miss what Jesus says!

“Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

John would certainly recognize Isaiah’s prophecy in those powerful words. This promise would bring the peace John needed to sustain him through the painful circumstances he was experiencing.

Notice that Jesus did not speak words of condemnation towards John. He didn’t express disappointment that John was doubting him. He didn’t throw up his hands in frustration that John would dare question his authority as the Messiah!

Right after John’s disciples go on their way, here is what Jesus says about John:

“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11)

Jesus makes this statement in the midst of John’s doubt!!  

I don’t know about you, but I find this nugget of truth fascinating. It brings me such relief and peace. It removes the heavy burden of guilt I sometimes feel when I’m in a season of doubt myself.

As the forerunner to paving the way for Jesus, John did a lot of great things. He called a nation to repentance, and prepared the world for Christ’s arrival.

But the quality I think we can all embrace is how he persevered in the face of public misunderstanding and malicious persecution.

Have you ever been misunderstood by anyone? (A family member, friend or co-worker?)

Have you ever been wrongly accused for standing up for your beliefs?

Have you ever felt like someone has bound you up in an emotional or mental prison?

I don’t know where you are today, but I want to encourage you to claim the promises of Jesus that will bring you peace.

The very words of Jesus are what ultimately comforted John. Even in prison. Awaiting a death sentence.

Wherever you feel trapped, locked up, bound up or hopeless…only His promises can bring you peace.

Don’t feel shame in your doubts, but bring them to the feet of Jesus, the only one who can unlock your prison of doubt.

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Peace in the Middle of Prison

Christmas 1994. This year stands out to me above all other Christmases I’ve ever experienced.

My life had fallen apart just six months prior. The tapestry of my heart had unraveled into tiny, fragile threads. My marriage had abruptly come to a halt and would soon end in divorce. My precious 11-month-old son held my focus while I was hurled into the world of single motherhood.  My heart ached so deeply. My son’s first Christmas was supposed to be happy and exciting, yet my emotions didn’t agree.

How would I ever survive this heart-wrenching journey in my life?

I’d hesitantly made plans to go Christmas caroling with a group from my church. We were scheduled to sing at the men’s prison in LaGrange, Kentucky. Exhaustion from working the night shift at UPS almost pushed me to change my mind and cancel.

But something in my spirit said Go Lisa……you will be blessed. 

So off I trudged onto a bus with about 25 other people. The prison building felt so dark and cold, just like the deepest corners of my soul. Once we were ushered through the iron gates by the security guards, our mission began. We had three specific places inside the prison where we’d stop and sing a few carols. As I stood there huddled up against my fellow carolers, my eyes locked with some of the prisoners. The only thing that separated us was the cold, iron bars of their prison cells. Most faces appeared stoic, rough and bitter. Some looked sorrowful. Others seemed to be covered with shame and guilt. My voice cracked because of the lump in my throat.

My heart feels so heavy…..Maybe I shouldn’t have come!

After our last song, we were finally led into the prison chapel. This would be our last stop. The prisoners gathered in this place were regular participants of worship services through the prison outreach ministry. They wanted to be here. No prison bars separated us from them.

These men looked so different than the others I’d just seen. I saw smiles on their faces and heard loud, boisterous laughter. Excitement bustled in that tiny chapel. We crowded together in hard wooden pews and we started to sing. But instead of singing to these prisoners, we sang with them. Our voices mingled together, belting out Silent Night and Joy to the World. The heaviness started to lift from my heart.

Finally one man in the back yelled out that he wanted to sing Oh Holy Night. We hadn’t rehearsed this song. Would we be able to sing it?

As these men began singing the first verse of Oh Holy Night, I could feel my heart almost skip a beat. Their voices rang out with such power. I looked around at these men’s faces and that’s when I felt the Holy Spirit speak ever so gently to me:

Look at them Lisa. Look at the JOY on their faces. Look at the sparkle in their eyes. These men have lost everything, yet they have something so real and powerful that can not be taken away.

And it struck me in that moment what these men possessed: peace…Here in prison!

It didn’t make sense. But peace is mysterious in how it passes all human understanding.  Some of them had served many years, while others were just starting out. But they all had Jesus. They’d chosen to embrace their relationship with HIM even though they were at the lowest valley of their lives.

The empty places in my heart began to fill up with something right then…..It was PEACE! And HOPE!

If Jesus could give these men peace in the middle of prison, then surely HE would carry me through the valley of divorce. It wouldn’t be easy, but I knew from that night forward, I craved the peace that these men had. I could trust Jesus with my life even though it felt so messy. He was more than able to take the broken pieces of my heart and put them back together into something beautiful.

I walked into that prison with deep hurt. But I left with dazzling hope.

I walked into that prison with gripping fear. But I left with glorious faith.

I walked into that prison with overwhelming pain. But I left with overflowing peace.

I might not be in a physical prison today, but I sometimes let the troubles of this life take me captive. When I find myself on that path, God gently reminds me of His faithfulness and He lovingly wraps me up in a blanket of peace that only He can give.

 

What about you, dear friend? Are there crevices deep in your heart full of hopelessness? Cracked places in need of repair? Empty places crying out for hope? Have you locked yourself into a prison of fear?

I urge you to humbly surrender these to Jesus…….the Prince of PEACE.

prison-bars

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett