It’s easy to judge Thomas … to see him as digging his heals in, doubting, refusing to believe the other disciples when they told him they’d seen the risen Lord Jesus. But what if Thomas didn’t stubbornly refuse to believe, but just couldn’t believe? Locked in the fresh, raw memory of the cruelty that had been unleashed on his beloved friend, and the inconsolable pain of his loss, perhaps all he could do was reason that the others must be full of wishful thinking, deceived by what they thought they’d seen. It couldn’t possibly be Jesus, the One he loved so much, the One he’d once been ready to follow, even to death, when the rest of the disciples had been wavering.
Isn’t it unfair to assume Thomas’s doubt was the proud kind, that lacks humility and respect for others, that says, “I know better, I go by what I think and I just don’t believe what you’re telling me”? When Thomas, so alone in his grief, said, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side,” perhaps what he was really saying, was, “I need more than words … show me something to help me believe … I want to but I just can’t … your words aren’t enough.”
Have you ever doubted, struggled to believe and trust that Jesus really is alive, right there with you and for you? Perhaps it was a time when, like Thomas, you were walking through very painful or difficult circumstances? Perhaps you’re even waking a lonely walk like that right now. The hardest challenge is: how do you handle doubt? Do you shut down, refusing to believe? Or do you keep that same open-heartedness that Thomas had, saying, “Show me something to help me believe … I want to believe”?
There’s so much encouragement in Jesus’ tender, patient response to Thomas. He knew what Thomas needed. He knew he needed time and gentleness, and he didn’t need an argument. When we’re hurting, wrestling with doubt, we don’t need someone rushing in, bombarding us with words, trying to convince or persuade us.
Jesus gave Thomas a week. Then He didn’t chastise him or speak a lot of words. He simply, lovingly gave him what he needed to be able to move beyond his doubt. He showed him the physical proof of His unfathomable love, and Thomas instantly received the most profound revelation that provoked such a heartfelt response, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus, once his Lord, had become his Lord and his God.
If, in the midst of doubt, we allow our hearts to remain open, searching, and questioning, reaching out to the God we’re not really sure is there … He, in His tender love and mercy, meets us right where we are … not with condemnation, but with perhaps the opposite of what we expect … the patience and kindness of His love.
It’s through those hardest of times that, like Thomas, we receive the most profound and deeply meaningful revelation of who He really is as our loving Father, and who we are as His beloved child, and that heartfelt conviction revelation bubbles up from inside, “He’s God! He knows me! He loves me! He’s with me … right now in what I’m going through and He’ll work out His redemptive plan.”
Prayer: Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You didn’t leave Thomas stuck in his pain, doubt and confusion. Thank You that You met him with such patience and gentleness, and gave him just what he needed. Please help me in the midst of struggle and doubt, not to let pride rule in my heart, not to shut down, but to act with humility, keeping an open heart to You, like Thomas, giving You access to meet with me by Your Holy spirit right in the reality of my situation. I want to trust in the midst of those times of my greatest struggles, that those will be the times I’ll look back on, when You did Your most precious work in my life - drawing me deeper into You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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