As the door closed behind me, I rushed eagerly to my hiding place. I was sure it was a good one; they’d never find me here.
It only took a moment though for my triumph to turn to terror. As the door shut completely, I was plunged into darkness deeper than I’d imagined, and I felt the panic beginning to rise.
I wanted nothing more than to get back to the safety of the light, but it was so dark that I couldn’t even see the door, and I was scared I wouldn’t find it. I had no choice but to wait until someone found me.
Suddenly I regretted finding such a good hiding place. What if they didn’t find me? What if I had to stay here until morning? It’s funny how your thoughts can spiral out of control as you sit in the dark.
I waited and waited. Still no-one came. The tiniest noise began to scare me. I knew really it was only traffic outside, or people in other parts of the building, or water in the pipes, but with every minute I waited, my fear increased. What if there was someone in here with me?
I tried to think logically. I had been in this room many times before and I knew it was perfectly safe. The darkness hadn’t changed anything, except to make me afraid. Eventually I sat and repeated one sentence over and over in my mind: “It’s just the same room without the light. It’s just the same room without the light.”
When I was finally found, I no longer cared about winning the game. I was just glad to be back in the light and with other people.
That memory of a childhood game of hide-and-seek is one that has stuck with me, because I think what was true in the game is also true in life: we may know the truth, but when it’s dark and we’re alone, it’s all too easy for doubt and fear to creep in.
As we continue this series looking at questions people asked Jesus, today we come to a question asked by John the Baptist.
“John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”” (Matthew 11:2-3 NLT)
It seems strange that John should ask this question. After all, he knew Jesus was the Messiah. Even before his birth he recognised that- jumping for joy in his mother’s womb when Mary visited her shortly after becoming pregnant with Jesus. (Luke 1:41)
Later John was the one to point Jesus out as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 NLT), and he witnessed the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus at his baptism and heard the voice of God affirming Jesus as his Beloved Son. John knew who Jesus was.
Yet in the darkness and loneliness of prison, it seems that John began to doubt what he knew. Could he have been wrong? If Jesus really was the Messiah, then why was he in this situation? It’s very easy for our circumstances to cloud the truth.
Jesus’ answer is gentle. He doesn’t rebuke or criticise John for his doubts, but he says to his friends, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen- the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are being raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.”” (Matthew 11:4-6 NLT)
He points to the evidence. Despite God’s seeming lack of action in John’s situation, miracles are happening elsewhere- signs that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He gives no reason why the miracles are happening for others but not for John, (check out this post for more reflection on that question) but he encourages John not to turn away from the truth he knows, and to hold firm.
I find this story encouraging in several ways. First of all, if John the Baptist got caught up in his circumstances and had doubts, surely it’s to be expected that we may feel the same way at times.
Secondly, I’m encouraged by Jesus’ response: both the response he gives John’s disciples to pass on to him, and also his response as they are leaving and he speaks to the crowd. Maybe some of them were a little unsettled by John’s doubts, but Jesus praises John publicly, and explains that since John began preaching the Kingdom of Heaven has been advancing and that is why it is under attack. He doesn’t seem to think less of John for his doubts, and he shows compassion rather than condemnation.
Finally it encourages me that what is true in the light is also true in the dark. There will be times when we can’t see it, when we are paralysed by fear, unable to move forward, just waiting for someone to find us and for the light to come back on.
In those times we need to hold our nerve and cling to the truth. Circumstances will change, but God’s character does not. We may not always understand what God is doing in a situation, but we can hold to his faithfulness, trust in his power, and rest in his unfailing love.
One day we’ll see more clearly, but for now, hold on: it’s just the same room without the light.
This is part of a series looking at questions people asked Jesus in the Bible. You can find an index page with all the posts in the series here. I was planning only to post once a week for this series, but the Five Minute Friday prompt word this week was “why” so I couldn’t resist adding an extra post. If you missed that post you can catch up here.