What to do after doubt punches you in the gut…

“Real doubt searches for the light; unbelief is content with the darkness.” Bible.com devotional

“In John 20, Jesus walks into the room & shows Thomas his wounds. In the process, Thomas comes to faith.

The church can win over a doubting world, but not by coercion, gifts, impressive programming, etc.

One of the ways we can win over a doubting world is through vulnerability.” Richard A. Villodas Jr.

After reading both of these thoughts this week, I was prompted to read through the account again in John 20.

“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

One of the thoughts I had after reading it was, Thomas’ belief was triggered because he had seen Jesus. He was close enough to touch him. Jesus was in his midst. Maybe that’s one of the first steps we need to take in seasons of doubt and unbelief…steps toward the confusing and the unknown…not away. Read this part again:

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.”

I think what Thomas did after admitting his doubt is crucial. “A week later…Thomas was with them.” You know what he could have done instead? He could have concluded that all his friends who were claiming Jesus came back to life were off their rocker. He could have walked away instead. But, Thomas makes a different choice. In many ways, it’s the harder choice…to stay (or continue to put himself) in that uncomfortable place of “lack of belief”. Yet, that’s when it happened, that’s when he finds himself reunited with his Savior!

That crossroads Thomas was at resonates with me and is such a source of huge encouragement.

What do we do next…right after doubt punches us in the gut?

Our answer is tucked away in this story of Thomas. “A week later…Thomas was with them.”

A week later. A week of unanswered questions and faith rattling doubt…Thomas stayed with them.

This actually just reminded me of something I would hear at AA meetings years ago early in recovery, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it.” In recovery, group members have an opportunity to share whatever is on their heart. Sometimes what you hear are stories of folks barely making it. Sometimes it’s a tear-filled confession that they slipped up again.

One of the comments people will often say at the end to encourage you is “Keep coming back” and “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.”

I am so thankful Thomas kept coming back and didn’t quit before seeing the miracle.

*****

As I drove into work this morning with all of this still on my heart, I thought more about how hard that week for Thomas must have been.  I can imagine it was hard for all of them…but especially Thomas. I wonder if he thought about that moment Jesus shared hard truth shortly before going to the cross, about being the bread of life.  Jesus asked those who had made the decision to stay and not walk away, “Do you want to go away as well?”  I wonder if Peter’s response then echoed in Thomas’ ears in the midst of that confusing and hopeless feeling week.  ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

As these words swirled around in my heart, this song started to play.

“I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me
I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!”

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