Hope in dark places
Updated: Mar 30
Matthew 11:1-6 "After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John heard in prison with Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not follow way on account of me.' "
I have preached from this passage before, but it seems meaningful for us now at this time, in this season to hear these words again. Sometimes in our lives we wonder if Jesus is really who he says he is. Will he really do what he says he will do? Situations happen in our lives that cause us to question the reality of God's goodness, his grace, his mercy, his provision, his faithfulness and on. We are challenged by situations that we face, by the experiences of others, and what we hear in the news. Perhaps Mary and Joseph wondered similar things as they went through their life of raising the Christ Child: “Is God really the God He says He is?” “Will He really watch over us and save us?” “Is all this really worth it?”
This passage is intriguing to me because John is the cousin of Jesus, born to Elizabeth and Zechariah, just months older than Jesus the Messiah. His purpose in life was to prepare the way of the Lord, which he does, calling people to repentance and transformation (Luke 3:1-19). He sets the stage for Jesus to come on the scene, preparing the people for His ministry. Yet here we find John questioning the reality of Jesus' identity, "Are you the one or are we to wait for another?" You think John would know the answer to that question, since he grew up with Jesus and had been proclaiming His kingdom. But there in jail, John questions what he thought he knew about God. When we are in dark places in our lives, it is not uncommon for us to question the reality of God and His presence with us. I think John doubted and questioned the reality of Christ because he was in prison, a dark and dismal place where hope goes to die; at the heart of John’s question is fear that all his suffering might be for naught.
Dear friends, when we ask the question of “Is all this worth it? Are you really the God you say you are,” the answer is always an emphatic “Yes!” God is still God, He still reigns on His throne, He is supreme and ruler of all. In the hard and joyous times we experience in life, God is still God and He is the one for whom we have been waiting! A dear friend once shared the following as she journeyed through her treatments with cancer: "Either our God is who He says He is, or He isn't.” This is something for us all to ponder. We must either choose to trust Him when things are good and bad, or not at all. We cannot simply believe that God is only true and good when life is perfect and pleasant for us. He is still God and Lord of all even when things are awful and miserable for us. The reality of our circumstances does not change the reality of God’s goodness or sovereignty, and so we are compelled to trust Him in spite of things, even when we cannot understand it. To doubt or to question is not sinful; it's human. But be encouraged that Christ is who He says He is, which is exactly the good news Jesus has John’s disciples relay to John: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead come to life, good news is preached to the poor. These are not examples of an ineffective Messiah. Hold on, John; it was all worth it!
When we are in our places of joy and triumph, may we make markers to remind ourselves that God is with us so that when we are in the dark places we will see those reminders and be able to carry on with courage and hope in His presence. Remember that Mary and Joseph went through difficult times in their lives just by becoming parents, in a most unusual way to the most unusual child, the Hope of the world. And it was completely worth it! God is who He says He is. Take heart, dear one, Christ has overcome all and He enables us to be over-comers as well.
Lord and Giver of Life, You are always with us, guiding and strengthening us. Give to us now more of your Spirit. Fill us with hope and joy, even in our darkest times, that we might not fall away from You or reject You. Instead, may we lean in to You, know You more, and be filled with peace. Sustain us and help us to be triumphant, even in the most dismal of circumstances. Amen.
See you at church,