Thomas: Doubt Can Deepen Your Faith
Science fiction speaks to some of our deepest dreams and longings. It captures our imagination. And that’s why we love fiction. The old adage: truth is stranger than fiction is true. You read the Gospels and what you’ll discover is that “truth is stranger than fiction.” Jesus did things that movie writers can only dream about. Stories of turning water into wine, walking on water, healing someone who is blind or lame, or raising the dead are just a few supernatural incidents that fill the gospels. Why is it that we love sci-fi movies that have supernatural elements? The astonishing account of Jesus’ appearing to Thomas in His resurrected body is real. Let me put it this way. I believe that Jesus can show up anywhere, anytime. This is not an isolated incident.
“One of the twelve disciples, Thomas was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” …Suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. ‘Peace be with you,’ He said. Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!’ ‘My Lord and my God!’ Thomas exclaimed.” John 20:19-28
I think sometimes we just think of God in four dimensions of the space-time continuum. We bring God down to our human level, but He created multi-universes in multiple dimensions. That is why, to an eternal God, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. He doesn’t exist within this dimension of time that He created. For us to think otherwise is a very human thing for us to do, but here’s the great irony, I think we fall into two traps.
One, if something seems too non-human or too unbelievable, we can’t believe it because that means that God would be God. I also think there is a part of us that on the flip side. We want God to fit within the constraints of our left-brain logic, but it just doesn’t work that way. So I make no apologies for the miraculous story, because if God couldn’t do this, He’s not God. God created these universal laws that we study and discover that give order and system and structure to the universe in which we exist. But by the very nature of God creating them, He exists outside of them. So when He does the miraculous deeds beyond my understanding, it just means that if I believe in God, then I believe there is nothing that God cannot do. And if He can’t do this, then He is not God and there is no point in worshipping Him.
Let me tell you how I live my life, why I have such a sense of destiny and why I live with holy anticipation. Because I believe that God can invade the reality of my life at any moment at any place and change everything. He can turn my life upside down and inside out. And that is both exciting and scary. That’s what happened in Thomas’ story. I believe that God has things planned and purposed for us that if, by faith, we’re open to it, He might just want to show up in an incredible and miraculous way and surprise us.
They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
This passage is where Thomas got his nickname, “Doubting Thomas.” Honestly, I feel bad for him. First of all, is there anybody who doesn’t have any doubts at all? No. We never arrive at a place where we have 100% faith. We are human, we are not omniscient, and faith is always part of the equation. But I would suggest that Thomas wasn’t satisfied with a second-hand faith. He wasn’t willing to live off of someone else’s experience, what someone else had seen or heard. He wanted a first-hand faith encounter. One of the critical moments in our journey comes when we go from a second-hand faith, believing because someone else believes like our parents or mentors. But there comes a moment where you can believe not just because of what someone else has experienced, you’ve got to experience it yourself. You’ve got to personalize it and internalize it. It’s first-hand faith.
As humans, we will never be doubt-free. Doubt is a healthy thing because it forces us to seek God more. And unless we lose faith, it actually builds our faith. Let me put it in physical terms. Doubt is like the fracturing of muscle tissue that happens when you exercise. The exercise damages the muscle fibers, but the muscle that is broken down repairs itself and builds back up even stronger. So doubt breaks us down, but faith builds us back up. If we didn’t experience any doubt, we’d never grow. We’d settle for someone else’s experience. If Thomas had been satisfied with the other disciples’ testimony, maybe he never would have experienced the personal encounter with Jesus-touching his wounds, and crying, “My Lord and my God.”
“My faith isn’t perfect and it isn’t static… It is guaranteed by my finitude to be incomplete, in need of continuing mid-course corrections. Doubting my faith can be an opportunity for increased faith in God. Faith is found and lost and found again, at deeper and deeper levels.” MacLaren
I think there is faith on the near side of doubt and it’s a very shallow, superficial faith. Then there is faith on the far side of doubt, and if you get to the far side of doubt, you will have a strong faith that will hold you together when it seems like everything is falling apart. So I think, in a sense, doubt is not something to be feared, it is something to be celebrated.
“Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” He said. 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” John 20:26-27
What a powerful moment. I love that Jesus met Thomas right where he was. Some people are more intellectual and some are more emotional. Have you noticed how God has the ability to meet us wherever we are?
There are people who need more evidence. They are wired in a way that their five senses need to have a greater comprehension. And on one level, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but I think there comes a moment where you have got to go beyond your senses. Do you know that we have about one hundred million sensory receptors that enable us to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell? I think what a lot of us do is we are not going to believe anything that goes beyond our five senses, we are not going to believe anything that goes beyond what we can see or feel or taste or touch. The bottom line is this, your world is going to be limited to what your five senses can perceive. Faith is going beyond those five senses.
I believe that my faith is not illogical. It’s not logical either. It is super-logical. It goes beyond the constraints of left-brained logic. If you could comprehend God, He wouldn’t be God. So what faith does is it allows us to live beyond what we can see or taste or touch. We can say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”