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I was once told by another Christian that he had never had a moment of doubt since giving his life to the Lord. That may well have been true for him, but for the vast majority of people, faith walks daily alongside doubt, uncertainty and bewilderment. Some days, we believe the word of God easily and rejoice in victory; the Lord seems so close to us and life seems easy. Other days, we feel like we’re walking through the darkest tunnel with no sense of God’s presence and no answers to our questions. Most days, I suspect, are a mixture. We pray but still doubt. We believe but still wonder.

I don’t think there is anything abnormal about that, and the reason I say that confidently is because we find so many examples of it in the Bible. Elijah’s faith saw rain held at bay for three years and then he called God’s fire down onto the altar to get rid of the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18); the next time we meet him, he’s on the run from Jezebel, terrified for his life and asking God to let him die. (1 Kings 19) Abraham, our ‘father of faith’, lied about his relationship with his wife and slept with his wife’s servant– hardly great examples of faith! So it’s perfectly human to find life a bit like a yo-yo or a roller-coaster with its up-and-down motions.

In Acts 12, we find the church facing a desperately difficult situation: one of its leaders (James) has been killed by King Herod Agrippa I and its most important leader (Peter) is in prison, awaiting execution. The church is ‘earnestly praying’ for Peter (Acts 12:5) – presumably for his protection and deliverance. Yet when he turns up at the house where they are praying, Rhoda the servant girl is so stunned to hear his voice that she leaves him standing outside and the church members don’t believe her, saying she is out of her mind or it must be his angel! (Acts 12:15) This is hardly the picture we would expect of a faith-filled, victorious, powerful church!

So I find it tremendously reassuring that as we journey through life, often confused, bewildered, doubtful and uncertain as well as confident, faith-filled and rejoicing, we are in the company of so many others who have experienced all these emotions and still remained true to God. John says (the same John who lost his brother in this chapter) in his first letter, ‘If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.’ (1 John 3:20) What more, ultimately, do we need?