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Thomas the Doubter

My Lord and my God!
John 20:28, NRSV

I don’t know if you have noticed, but the world has undergone a massive change this year. So much so that the song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” by R.E.M. might serve as an appropriate anthem for 2020. I think most of us sense the seismic cultural shift that is taking place, even if we can’t quite put it into words.

The real question for followers of Jesus is, “How do we respond?” How should we process all of this? The Bible has a lot to say on this subject, even in characters which we might not suspect. Today, I want to offer a lesson from Thomas the Doubter. Yes, that’s the disciple who doubted his faith. (See John 20.) Thomas might not be the first guy of whom we think as offering a positive example, but I think Thomas gets a bad rap. In fact, I admire Thomas for his authenticity. He wasn't afraid to admit the way he felt. He had legitimate questions and he wrestled with belief.

Not unlike our current context, Thomas’s world as he knew it was coming to an end: the one whom Thomas had given up everything to follow (Jesus) had died. This meant that Thomas had to rethink everything. He began to question the most fundamental assumptions about himself, the world and his faith.

Of course, it would have been easy for the other disciples to simply "give up" on Thomas. They might have said to themselves, "This guy is never going to get it; he's hopeless." But, naturally, that would have been the wrong thing to do. After all, Jesus didn't give up on Thomas. Jesus did the opposite in fact: he met Thomas in the midst of his doubt. The result? Well, this what Thomas said to Jesus: "My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) In the end, Thomas had a more authentic faith, precisely because he had asked the hard questions.
I think Thomas’s doubt and latter faith is instructive for how we think about the hard-hitting questions that are pervading our culture. Many of us might have friends and family members who might be wrestling with doubt, even those who outright deny Christianity. We shouldn't give up on them. We should continue to pray for them and to ask Jesus to intervene in the midst of their doubt.

I am thankful that we serve a God who doesn't give up on us. Perhaps we too should be more patient and diligent in prayer for those who struggle with their faith, realizing that our prayers are not in vain.
The Rev. Alex D. Graham III
Associate for Children and Family Ministries
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