What makes you question your faith? A crisis, chronic condition, daily drudgery, or something else? If you experience a season when your faith is shaken, you’re not alone.
At least three Bible heroes faced a crisis of faith. In each case, Christ intervened and transformed dark moments of questioning, cynicism, and abandonment into reassurance, revelation, and ministry.
Can you identify with any of these cases below? If so, God has an answer for you too.
Case #1: The Seeker
John the Baptist knew Jesus well. He saw the Spirit of God descend at Jesus’ baptism. His entire life was devoted to preaching the good news that the Messiah was coming. He had experienced Jesus’ presence firsthand, and yet he questioned whether Jesus was the Messiah.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)
John the Baptist had been preaching the nearness of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 3:2), but once in prison, no kingdom seemed forthcoming. It didn’t make sense; this wasn’t how the story was supposed to end. Had John been mistaken about the Messiah?
In the midst of his confusion, John the Baptist came seeking answers. And in his mercy, Jesus responded to John’s questions with the reassuring message that he was indeed the Messiah.
For the seeker faced with circumstances that make no sense, Christ offers the good news of the gospel. Jesus is who he says he is: The blind see, the lame walk, and the good news is preached. He is ready to answer us when we pray, cast our cares on him (Philippians 4:5-6), and trust him by faith to save us from sin.
Case #2: The Cynic
Thomas was ready to die with Jesus. When he saw that Jesus was determined to go to Judea despite the danger, Thomas rallied the disciples to follow Christ to the death: “So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’” (John 11:16).
But Thomas’ noble intentions were later crushed by the news that Jesus had died on the cross. Maybe it was the way Jesus died—the death of a criminal—that caused Thomas to give up. Maybe it was witnessing nails piercing Jesus’ hands or the sword thrust into his side that caused Thomas’ courage to be replaced with cynicism. Was it all a hoax?
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)
Jesus responded to Thomas’ doubts and pointed to the very evidence that Thomas demanded to see. Thomas recognized the scars, and he saw that Jesus was indeed “Lord” and “God.”
Unexpected circumstances have a way of changing our attitudes. Facing pain, loss, or disappointment can turn faith into fear and courage into cynicism. When we find ourselves insisting, “Unless I see…I will never believe,” we can turn to the Lord in prayer and cry out, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Case #3: The Deserter
Peter loved the Lord. Of all the disciples, he was the one with faith enough to step out of a boat and walk on water.
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:28-30)
But this same Peter, full of great faith in Christ, abandoned him one dark night.
And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:70-72)
Have you walked with the Lord and then experienced a great failure of faith like Peter? Knowing we’ve messed up can make us hide from Christ and from one another. For me, great failures usually come when I start trusting myself to hold on to Christ and forget that he’s the one who holds on to me. I need a constant reminder that my faith can’t be in my faith; my faith must be in Christ alone. Leaning on him each day is the only way I can avoid another great failure of faith.
Christ showed mercy to Peter. After Peter’s failure, he returned to the fishing life he knew. And although he abandoned Christ, Christ didn’t abandon him. Jesus found Peter at the shore and offered him a second chance to demonstrate his love for Christ.
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17)
As if to erase the three times Peter denied Christ, Jesus asked Peter three times to affirm his love by accepting the ministry of feeding his sheep.
Which Case Are You?
Are you a seeker, a cynic, or a deserter? If you’re in a situation that has shaken your faith, bring it to Christ. He is never surprised by your questions. He doesn’t leave you in hopelessness or cynicism. And he will never abandon you, even when you fail miserably.
Just as he did for John the Baptist, Thomas, and Peter, Jesus can turn our questions into reassurance, our cynicism into revelation, and our abandonment into ministry. He is indeed faithful and will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).