As part of preparation for Lent and Easter, I have revisited the Scriptures about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. There were several such appearances. The one that has given me some consternation is the story of Thomas. Most of us know that Thomas was doubting Jesus’ resurrection until he not only saw the risen Jesus, but put his hands in Jesus’ pierced hands and side. For this account he earned the name “Doubting Thomas.” This was not a positive remark and it has subsequently been used to cast aspersions on believers who dare to doubt parts of their faith.
Having doubts can be disruptive and we may push our doubting thoughts away, hoping they will disappear before God notices. And then we start to say to ourselves, “I must be doing something wrong; it is all my fault.” This is pretty harsh self-judgement and is not entirely accurate.
Doubt serves as a way to grow spiritually. God wants us to grow into spiritual maturity. Doubt is an opportunity for growth because it can push us to move out of our stale comfort zones and explore our faith in more depth. The end goal is to embrace newness and to come to know God in ways God wants for us. It leads to transformation. I like to think of doubt as making me more porous – or full of holes, if you will. I am then able to absorb more truths and come to deeper faith.
To return to Thomas, remember what he said after he had the encounter with the risen Jesus? “My Lord and My God!” He made a strong affirmation about the identity of the Lord and of God.
Notice he said my Lord and my God. This is a very personal affirmation that acknowledges that God wants us to draw near in a very intimate and personal way. It is reassuring to know that God wants a personal relationship with each of us.
One other troublesome verse is part of this Scripture. Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We have not seen Jesus and we are having some doubts. Does that mean we are not measuring up? I do not think that is the case. Notice that Jesus does not say that we have not seen Jesus in the flesh but we believe. It says instead that those who come to believe will be blessed. The statement implies an ongoing activity; we do not just believe all at once and no more is required. No, it is a process. I take that to mean it is a lifelong commitment.
OK, so commitment means we make an effort over time and do not bail out because we have not yet arrived at our desired level of faith.
Some of my own best-faith moments have come when I look again and again at Scripture and look at it from many perspectives. Seldom do I get the a-ha moment if I take Scripture at face value or expect “just the facts, just the facts.” It is almost always a process of asking the Holy Spirit to be my guide and to trust spiritual discernment over and above logical reasoning. It is, after all, a process of divinely-inspired growth. God is working and we are to trust God, not ourselves. Doubt and faith are partners, not antagonists, and the end result is growth in faith.