Dealing with Doubt and Difficulty

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When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to this?… After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”

(John 6:60, 68)

These are two of the saddest verses in the Bible. This section of the book of John is the place where Jesus forcefully and powerfully reveals who He really is. And how does it end?

Jesus is abandoned by many of his disciples. He has come to his own, but his own people, his own friends, and his own family have turned their back on him.

Why?


When we need hope his words transform. When we need instruction his words are truth. When we need guidance his words direct.


John chapter six is one of the most difficult chapters in the Bible. One commentator called it “Grand Central Station” for all of its theological, cultural, historical, and literary difficulties.

Herein lie some of the most controversial theological statements in the whole Bible. We have Jesus’ forceful teaching on election — something that the church has debated and been divided over at least since the 4th century. (Or, really, as this chapter shows us, since Jesus’ day.) Here we have his enigmatic teaching on the nature of Communion, something that was at the heart of the debates and division between Protestants and Catholics as well as Protestants and other Protestants during the Reformation in the 16th century. And here we have Jesus confronting the crowd who only seem interested in following him as long as he fills their bellies, as if they were the original practicers of the prosperity gospel, which is the great spiritual plague of the 21st century.

In this chapter, we find difficult sayings of Jesus that shatter our pride. We have mysterious sayings of Jesus that disorient our minds. And we have provocative sayings of Jesus that confront our selfish motivations.

That is why we see some of the original disciples abandoning Christ. His teaching was hard. They couldn’t handle the difficulty. So they turned their backs on him.

Turning to his remaining disciples, Jesus asks a simple, pointed question: “Do you want to go away as well?”

As usual, Peter is the first to speak up. And his response is a perfect model for how we should deal with doubts and difficulties:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life (John 6:68).

Are Jesus’ words hard? Yes. Are His words challenging? Yes.

But where else can we go?

In times of difficulty and doubt we have an unfailing refuge in His life-giving words.

When we experience intellectual doubts and difficulties, to whom shall we go? Is there a better explanation offered elsewhere? Is there an intellectual framework that offers more explanatory power for how the world works and came to be? Can we run to humanism and its over-confidence in human ingenuity? Can we run to secularism and its acidic cynicism that consumes all and builds nothing? Can we run to naturalistic materialism that reduces all goodness, truth, and beauty to the random clanging of atoms, neurons, or chemical collisions?

Or when we experience emotional doubts and difficulties, to whom shall we go? Should we drown all our sorrows in a bottle, pill, or powder? Do we seek to distract ourselves with exotic tastes, moving pictures, or shiny shoes?

Or when we experience personal problems, should we run to politicians for more broken promises? Is there a greater expert available? Do all of the modern gurus have more experience than the One who is timeless? Do they possess more expertise than the One by whom all things were formed?

To whom shall we go? Where else can we find such hope, such peace, such strength, such soul-stabilizing comfort? When we need stability, is there a better place to go than the eternal Word?

When we need hope his words transform. When we need instruction his words are truth. When we need guidance his words direct.

Where else can we go?

His words have the power to heal broken bodies and broken families (John 4 and 5). His words have the power to satisfy empty stomachs and fill empty minds (John 6).

His words have the power to quench thirsty souls. (John 4)

His words stop storms and stop funerals. (John 6 and 11)

Where else can we go?

He has the words of life!


This article from Pastor Ben Bailie of Grace Lake Nona originally appeared in our Spring 2017 issue of Grace Magazine. Download the issue here.