But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ (Jn. 20:24-25)
We don’t know where Thomas was on the first Easter night when Jesus showed up. What we do know is that when he did return, and the disciples told him that Jesus had just been there, Thomas demanded proof before he was going to believe them.
Because of this incident Thomas has long been called “Doubting Thomas.” This designation is, I believe, unfair to Thomas and unhelpful to us.
Thomas doubted at this moment not because he was a doubter or skeptic by nature. He doubted because he was brokenhearted. He had just seen his Lord, Best Friend, and Messiah being crucified. He, along with all the rest of the disciples, hadn’t supported or protected Jesus. He expresses doubt and demands proof to protect his grieving heart.
I’ve spent a lot of time with a lot of people who identify with Thomas. Nearly all those who struggled with doubts had experienced great pain and loss. They doubted because their hearts had been broken. Sadly, tragically, and painfully, a loved one, or themselves, weren’t healed or cured or spared or found.
Very often people who experience or express doubts are scolded or shamed or judged. We have, unfairly, been doing all of the above with Thomas. Perhaps even worse, we can even do this scolding, shaming, and judging when others around us have doubts, or when we ourselves are the doubter.
How did Jesus respond to Thomas and his doubts? Jesus came to Thomas with great tenderness and compassion.
How would Jesus like us to treat others or ourselves when they or we are struggling with our own doubts? He encourages us to give the same tenderness and compassion.
- Have you ever gone through your own season of doubting and struggling with your faith? If so, when and what were the circumstances?
- Are you right now going through a time of doubts and struggles? If so, what led you there? If so, are you willing to share your doubts with a trusted friend or advisor?
- Like nearly everyone, I have had my own struggles with faith. One thing that has helped me to weather such times is simply to accept that sometimes having doubts is just part of having faith. Does accepting the same help you?