“Oh, don’t be a doubting Thomas!”
This is a phrase you may have heard directed at you or someone around you. You may have even said it yourself. It is meant to chastise the person for their lack of faith. Whether the person saying it is serious or joking, the implication about Thomas’s character is clear. You definitely don’t want to be like him.
You may already be familiar with the story in the Bible that this phrase comes from, but for our benefit as well as to use as a reference point, the scripture is below. This is after Jesus has risen from the dead and appeared to many of the disciples.
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:24-29
Everyone in the room was telling Thomas the truth and yet he couldn’t bring himself to believe it. It was beyond belief. Too good and too amazing to be true. And yet it was.
When we doubt God’s goodness and love towards us. When we wonder to ourselves, “Could I really be God’s child? Dirty and broken as I am? After what I have done?” We find ourselves in the same place as Thomas. We are doubting the truth. Our lack of belief doesn’t change the facts, it only impedes our experience of it. Jesus truly had risen from the dead, but Thomas’s doubt kept him from living in the joy and peace and a host of other blessings that knowledge would have brought.
This can be applied to any truth in God’s Word or aspect of His character that we doubt. Our doubt limits us from fully experiencing all of the blessings of whatever truth we might be doubting, but in many cases even in the midst of our doubt we do experience that truth, even if it is only partially or unrecognized as such.
When we move from doubt to belief, the truth washes over us like a flood and we can truly experience the grace and goodness of the Lord. Thomas spent a week doubting that Jesus had risen, refusing to believe those around him that told him the truth. The amount of peace and joy that Thomas finally received when He saw Jesus must have been overwhelming. Thomas’s doubt had kept him from living in the reality of the risen Christ. We often do the same.
However, there is something else that we can learn from Thomas and his doubt that has been an enormous encouragement to me in seasons of doubt. That is the way in which Jesus deals with his doubt.
Thomas can’t believe that Jesus really has risen from the dead. So what does Jesus do? He appears to him. God reveals Himself to Thomas. Jesus stands before him and proves to Thomas that He has truly risen. Jesus then tells him “Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas’s response is to worship Jesus and affirm who He truly is saying, “My Lord and my God!”
Thomas’s doubt doesn’t keep him from seeing Jesus. Nor does it disqualify him from being a disciple. God also doesn’t leave it up to Thomas to finally believe what everyone is telling him. Instead, God uses it as an opportunity to solidify Thomas’s faith by appearing to him in person. We can take comfort and encouragement from this story knowing that God will reveal Himself in our own doubts. Maybe not in the way we are thinking, but He will. And when He does, our response should be to worship Him and follow Him.
If you want to read more about doubt in the Bible, click here.