A friend’s twelve-year-old son, raised in kind and caring church families, tearfully told his parents that he didn’t believe in God. He said he just couldn’t believe in something he didn’t see. His loving parents talked him through his feelings, assuring him that everyone has their own path to belief, that he isn’t a bad person for thinking this way, and that they will continue to share with him how God moves in their lives.

This boy and I have a friend in Jesus’s disciples. I have never felt more connected to these followers than when I read about their “weakest” moments: arguing about who is the greatest (Lk 22:24-27), doubting Jesus’s mission (Mt 16:21-23), misunderstanding his teachings (Mk 8:14-21), falling asleep on his worst night (Mt 26:36-46), deserting him out of fear (Mt 26:56), and, in today’s text, cowering behind locked doors after his death (Jn 20:19).

We hear a lot about Thomas being the doubter, but all of the disciples doubted. They locked the doors, afraid that they might be crucified too. When the risen Jesus appeared among them in that locked room, he spoke peace to them and “showed them his hands and his side.” And John writes, “Then the disciples rejoiced” (vv. 19-21). These frightened, grief-ridden followers only felt relief when Jesus proved his resurrection to them. They are no different from their friend Thomas, who wasn’t there at the first appearance and needed his own proof before he would believe (vv. 24-28).

In The Predicament of Modern Man, Elton Trueblood wrote, “Faith…is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations.” This popular quote seems to get at the root of Christian faith. We want proof that we don’t always get. Our choice, then, is whether to trust Jesus as we know him from Scripture and as we experience him in the people and the world around us. Sometimes this journey to trust takes a very long time, and it is unique to each individual.

Jesus seemed to understand how hard this could be for us. When Thomas accepted the proof of the resurrection, Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (v. 29). That’s us. We have not seen, yet we have come to believe. It’s not easy, but Jesus knows that, and he gives us loving church families and other supportive people as we journey to trust.

D. Elton Trueblood, The Predicament of Modern Man, 1st ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1944).

Discussion

• What has your journey to trust looked like? Do you feel that you’ve reached the destination, or do you still have a long way to go?
• How would you explain the Christian faith to a literal-thinking child?
• Read some of the passages listed above about the disciples’ “weakest” moments. How does it make you feel to know the ways they struggled in their faith—even with Jesus right in front of them?
• What kind of proof would you like to have regarding your faith?
• How can loving relationships and a connection with the natural world help you with this desire for proof?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University (BA in English, 2000), has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theatre productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she always has one book going and several more waiting to be read!

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