It took a while for me to get to know Thomas. For years, I knew of him by the wholly inappropriate nickname, Doubting Thomas. Growing up in church, I was told that a good disciple wasn’t a Doubting Thomas. A good disciple didn’t doubt, but accepted what they were told on “blind” faith. I’m so glad to have learned that these old understandings are not so. In truth, Thomas only wanted what the others had already experienced. He wanted to see Jesus.
Where had Thomas been that he missed Jesus’ first appearing to the disciples? We don’t know where he was geographically, but we can probably picture where he may have been emotionally and spiritually. Perhaps the pain of what had happened to Jesus caused his absence. Perhaps he was overwhelmed, crushed between the trauma of Passover expectations and the deadly reality of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and death. Perhaps, just like what might have happened to any one of us, he was stunned and exhausted by events and experiences too difficult to process or understand. Perhaps he needed to retreat before returning to the others and engaging such difficult realities. Can you imagine what that might be like?
When Thomas exclaims, “Unless I see… I will not believe” (v. 25), he speaks from a deeply wounded heart. Thomas wants to know that the impossible is true, that Jesus is alive in some new way that the disciples will struggle to fully grasp for most of their lives.
When life overwhelms me, how do I respond? How can a community of faith be helpful in such times?
O Lord, help me to find the grace in my life not to judge how others respond to hard times. Help me be patient with myself, too, when I feel like I cannot cope. Amen.