Shall We Look For Another? Tempted to Give Up!Fr. Barnabas Powell
Life can be discouraging at times. A wise man once told me this during a particularly discouraging time in my life: “Son, don’t quit when life is tough. You don’t throw your ticket away just because the train goes through a dark tunnel!” I still remember that today. And yet, there are dark times when the temptation to give up is very strong!
In fact, during those times it seems that the inner voice is saying “You really blew it. You trusted the wrong people. You depended on God and He let you down. You’ve been a real fool!” Yeah, I’ve heard those words in my own heart. But every time I’ve heard those words in my head, I remember that it’s always too early to give up!
That is a lesson I seem to have to keep learning over and over again. But, let’s face it, it’s better to keep on relearning this lesson than live in the despair of failure with no redeeming wisdom. Plus, it’s also very important that times of doubt are bound to come in the face of crisis and pressure. We get afraid. And fear clouds our minds and hearts, hiding the light of hope. So, it is both unsurprising AND temporary. But how do we keep this in mind when the challenge comes?
Look at our lesson today in Luke 7:17-30:
At that time, a report concerning Jesus spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. The disciples of John told him of all these things. And John, calling to him two of his disciples, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many that were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”
When the messengers of John had gone, he began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” When they heard this all the people and the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John; but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.
It was completely understandable. St. John the Baptizer was in jail and he knew he was going to die. The king was going to give his head to a young girl because her vindictive mother wanted John dead! And, here at the end of his life, this hero of faith, this last of the Old Testament Prophets, was wondering about whether he missed something.
So, he has his disciples ask Jesus “Are you the One or should we look for another?” The way Jesus answers these men who are about to see their teacher die shows such loving compassion and wisdom. He doesn’t scold them. He doesn’t correct them and He doesn’t disappoint them. He just directs them to reality. He tells them to tell John what they’ve seen and heard. They witnessed Him healing the sick and teaching the people about the Kingdom of God. Tell John that the blind (both physical and spiritual) see; tell John that the lame (both physical and spiritual) walk; the lepers (both spiritual and physical) are cleansed; the deaf (both physical and spiritual) hear, and the poor (both physical and spiritual) have Good News preached to them!
Perfect! Just say what you saw and heard! When you face moments of doubt, the key is the attentiveness of reality and remembering God’s faithfulness in your life. The “feeling” of doubt always melts away in the face of our focused attention on Christ and His consistent love for us throughout our lives. God isn’t hiding IF you keep seeking Him! But we have to live that life of attention to Christ if we are to stay faithful to him.
Then the Lord makes sure the people know who it is that is about to die for his integrity and his prophetic ministry. St. John was a prophet indeed, but even as great as he was, the least in the Kingdom is greater than he. And this is because John dies before the Resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. But John doesn’t miss it because the Lord goes to where John is and confirms everything John ever preached! I would have loved to see that reunion between the Lord and St. John after the Resurrection!
All of the above explains how a young woman, St. Charitina, endured torture and never denied her faith in Christ. Charitina lived in the last decade of the 3rd century and was the handmaiden of a certain Claudius. She was a servant, but, like many servants and slaves of her day, she was drawn to the Christian Faith because of the message of freedom in Christ regardless of present situations. She was betrayed as a believer to the local Count Domitian. Being a servant, she had few rights, and the power of the Empire was still determined to persecute Christianity, but a few decades after her death, the Empire gave up persecuting Christianity. Still, her torture did not sway this brave woman’s faith in Christ. All her surrounding circumstances were horrible. Her physical pain was enormous, but her faith remained. She refused to trade eternal joy for temporary relief. And we remember her heroism to this day.
So, today, are you in a dark place in your life where you’re tempted to give up? Are you faced with a scary moment in life where you’re wondering if you’ve wasted your life? Take courage from the life of St. John and know that living Orthodox on Purpose means you are great in the Kingdom!
P.S. O Lord Jesus, unto You Your lamb does cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, You I love; and seeking You, I now contest, and with Your baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Your sake, that I may reign with You; for Your sake I die, that I may live in You: accept me offered out of longing to You as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since You are great in mercy.