"God, before I ever took a step toward you, you came to us in the flesh through your Son Jesus. By your Word and Spirit, may I encounter you now. Amen."
Song for Reflection: One Thing Remains
Scripture Reading: John 20:24-31
Some of us have the gift of faith - for all the ups and downs in our life, there is an unwavering sense of God's presence and providence. But I think that's a rare gift. Many of us wrestle with doubt and questions, especially when we've experienced pain or hurt. Furthermore, as modern people, doubt is something of a virtue. We're trained to always critique appearances, to wrestle with and test truth claims.
"Doubting Thomas" is often typecast as the hard-hearted skeptic who needs extra "proof" to believe God's revelation in Jesus. But my sense is that most of us are like Thomas - when we are honest, we have to admit that we are spiritually complex: A part of us wants to believe in God and follow Jesus wholeheartedly, but at times we aren't always sure where God is and we would long to see him more clearly in our lives. We wrestle with the claim that God is present and alive and working in our lives.
Rather than be ashamed about our doubt and hide our questions, I believe this story teaches us that God loves complex people and is willing to meet us where we're at! There are some who even argue that the modern world's celebration of doubt and criticism is actually a 'secular' version of the Christian prophetic impulse - that impulse to question and critique how things appears in light of a vision of what God wills for the world to become. Critique and asking questions and longing to see a bigger perspective are not spiritually bad. The question is: are we open to letting God offer an answer to our questions?
Is there something you "see" in your life or the world that is keeping you from believing in God or following Him? Are you having trouble reconciling God's love and human suffering? Or how to know God's presence in a busy world? You can let your questions draw you out of relationship with God. Or you can make your questions a part of your relationship with God: "God, I want to know you and understand you. So please help me understand this, or show me this." It may be that God wants to teach you something new, or show you that he is bigger than you imagined!
The late great preacher, William Sloane Coffin, once wrote these words:
"There is nothing anti-intellectual in the leap of faith, for faith is not believing without proof but trusting without reservation. Faith is no substitute for thinking. On the contrary, it is what makes good thinking possible. It has what we might call a limbering effect on the mind; by taking us beyond familiar ground, faith ends up giving us that much more to think about. Certainly Peter and Andrew and James and John, in deciding to follow Jesus, received more to think about than had they stayed at home. And so it is with all of us: if we give our lives to Christ, if we leave familiar territory and take the leap of faith, what we receive in return fills our minds altogether as much as it fills our hearts."
Thomas' first step of faith was not to simply "stop doubting." Rather, it was to reach out his hand and let Jesus graciously show him that God's love is bigger and better than he thought possible. And in light of that, the invitation was to "stop doubting and believe." The better translation is simply: "stop unbelieving and believe." It is an invitation to grow in trust!
In Jesus, God meets people where they are at. Today where are you at spiritually?
How does Jesus connect personally with the people in this story?
What do you sense is God's invitation to you today?
"God, thank you for making me and pursuing a relationship with me. May I seek after you today. In Jesus' name, Amen."