Did Thomas Really Doubt?
Happy wife, happy life. Slow and steady wins the race. The early bird gets the worm. There is a phrase for everything, for each and every part of our lives. We use them to describe things, explain things, or give them as life advice. One of the ones I heard growing up was “doubting Thomas.”
During preparation for a lesson, I was reading John 20and I reread the encounter between Jesus and Thomas. Jesus told him in verse 29, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”I began to wonder if Thomas actually doubted Jesus. When someone has a doubt, this means that they had faith to begin with. Earlier in the chapter, Thomas said inverse 25, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”Thomas didn’t just doubt that Jesus was raised from the dead, he didn’t believe it at all. He had no faith. Having no faith is considered unbelief, not doubt. There is a difference in the two. In order to have doubt there must first be faith, and then some circumstance to shake that faith. Unbelief, however, requires that there be no belief at all. An atheist, for example, has an unbelief in God.
While it may not be accurate to call someone a “doubting Thomas,” there are still many Christians who struggle with doubt. In fact, it would be a safe assumption that all have struggled with doubt at one point or another. Often times it is an outside circumstance that is making us doubt. It is in these moments, when our faith is being tested, that we need to do what Peter did when he doubted. As Peter began to walk on the water, he saw the wind and waves and had doubts. When he began to sink, he cried out “Lord save me!”We need to have the same reaction when doubts threaten to drag us down. Crying out to Jesus for strength and help should be our response. James tells us that when we persevere through these times, our faith grows and we emerge as stronger Christians.
Even though most people struggle with doubt at times, it’s not always easy to admit it. When a brother or sister comes and confides that they are struggling with doubt, this is a critical moment. This is not the moment to be harsh on them for struggling with their belief. Judewrites to us in his letter, in verse 22, to “Have mercy on those who doubt.” If we don’t have mercy, we can easily crush the faith of a weak brother or sister. Instead, we are called to build one another up and carry each other’s burdens. Also, ask yourself how you would like to be treated if you revealed to someone you have doubts. Would you rather be belittled or shown mercy? Most would prefer mercy.
Instances of doubt are important moments for Christians. They are chance for us to grow and increase our faith. Jesus saved Peter when he doubted and Peter’s faith was strengthened by it. Doubt gives us more zeal to dig deeper into God’s word and find out what His answer is. But instances of doubt can be turning points for Christians, when questions go unanswered and faith is weakened. Left unchecked, doubt can crush faith and lead to unbelief. So, listen to the cry for help when someone doubts. You might be the help they need.