It breeds discontent, despair and hopelessness. Even those who have previously hit Everest-like spiritual heights can be brought Dea Sea-low by the wearing on of long days/weeks/months of stress.
When Sophia was first diagnosed, my best friend Lynn and I talked a lot about how I could manage the emotional roller coaster. Sitting in her car in the driveway of a house I was trying to move in to, she had a lot of advice and experience to share. She told me about how, in her situation, she would be stripped down naked - emotionally speaking one day and then the next, she would be lit up like a sparkler with joy.
Her advice was to try to manage the highs and lows. We talked a lot about going to God for results versus seeking His presence. We covered a lot of ground about where my comfort should come from and how to be continuously in prayer.
I'd like to say I listened. I'd like to say I learned how to strap myself in for the ride and hold on without letting my emotions get crazy. I'd like to say I took every syllable of perfect truth she spoke straight to my heart.
Since I still remember her words, that counts for something. (Right?)
But the grind, the effort and yes, the roller coaster of our situation has worn me down.
John the Baptist knew what it was like to be ground down. In prison for the Truth - you can see in Matthew 11:2-6 that his hope had ebbed away. Faith in Jesus wasn't a problem for him when he was freely preaching repentance around Judea. When we are breathing fresh air, it is not hard to believe The Lord will make everything work out.
But when you are in the dank, dark prison cell, it is easy to forget His Light. So many I know spend long hours in prisons of their own - a hospital room, a desk, a bedroom, a damaged relationship. Our minds are easy prey for anger, fear, worry and doubt when we are locked up in our circumstances.
John was there. He sends his friends to ask Jesus if He really was the Messiah. But I'm not convinced that was John's real question. I hear him asking:
Are you really the one I've been waiting for? Can I really count on you? I don't have a lot of time left, so am I really able to trust you or have I misplaced my hope?
It is a question we all MUST face in hard times and often more than once.
Jesus - can I really trust you or should I be looking elsewhere for comfort, guidance and deliverance?
When I read this passage, I like to picture Jesus' face. He doesn't come back with "Really? You are asking me this now?? Haven't you seen and heard what I'm capable of?"
He doesn't say anything to the effect of "Oh ye of little faith" or "Woe to this unbelieving generation!" Although, there are obviously times we need to hear that.
Jesus knows John's faith is fading. I'd like to believe Jesus smiles at John's followers when He tells them what to take back to their leader.
He quotes Isaiah, which I'm sure God's last prophet knew by heart. True to form, He reminds John of what he already knows, but goes further. In verse 6, He adds blessing to the original promise. I read this the same as the verses from Matthew 5 - the Sermon on the Mount.
He doesn't tell John to get more faith - but to hang in there, kitty.
Even better, I like the way Paul says it. He tells us THE SECRET to having it all in Philippians 4:13 and Eugene Peterson translates verse 13 this way:
Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.
That is what Jesus was telling John. I AM so I have made you. You can rest, you can be content. Do not fear or look to another false god - I am all the promise already fulfilled that you need. Hold fast, little brother! It will be over soon and oh the joy and blessings you will receive!!
I can keep going because I am made by I AM. Whether it is little or big, whether I have a lot or nothing - I can and will do it through Christ.
Don't turn away on account of Christ - turn back, run back and He will give you the strength to run forward.