Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

John 20:24-29

Perhaps the Biblical figure I identify most with is the Apostle Thomas. All of the disciples fled when Jesus was arrested except for John. We don’t know if they spent Good Friday hiding together or whether they went to separate places. What we know is that on the evening of the first day of the week, what would have been Sunday night, late on the day that the Resurrection had happened, ten of them were gathered in a room behind locked doors. We know that Christ had appeared to Mary Magdalene, had appeared to Luke and Cleopas (disciples from the group known as the seventy) on the road to Emmaus, and that some of the disciples had seen the empty tomb, but not the risen Christ. Christ appeared in the midst of the disciples, who were glad when they saw the Lord. Here is where the above Scripture passage picks up on the story.

Thomas was not with the ten (at this point there were only eleven disciples, as Judas was dead) when Jesus appeared. The disciples eagerly told him that they had seen the risen Lord. And even the testimony of ten of his closest friends was not enough to convince him that this had really happened. That’s some serious doubt. Thomas said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) This is why Thomas has been called “Doubting Thomas.”

The Gospel passage continues by saying, Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house and Thomas was with them.” (John 20:26) Here is where I take inspiration. Eight days is a long time. The ten disciples presumably didn’t see Jesus during this time, but they had seen Him risen from the dead, and so this time perhaps passed by with eager anticipation for them, like what was coming next. Thomas had not seen Jesus, so he had eight days alone with his thoughts. Did it really happen? Why couldn’t he believe? Did he really trust his friends? We’ve all had questions like this at times in life, whether about faith or even more secular things. These kinds of questions lead us to dark places, crushing doubts, despondency, and kindle a desire to quit. But Thomas didn’t! Eight days later, the disciples were in the room and Thomas was with them! His faith was strong enough that he survived that week of doubt and still wanted to be with the disciples. His trust in his friends remained strong enough so that when they were gathering together in the house that day, he was still with them.

Then Jesus appeared and showed Thomas His hands and His side and told him not to be faithless but to believe. And then Thomas made the highest “confession” of faith in the Bible, as He addressed Jesus as “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

I think that Thomas has been unfairly named “Doubting Thomas.” I actually think he should be called “Faithful Thomas” because having sat with his doubts for a week, he still showed up. He still believed something.

In Matthew 28:16-20, we read the account of the Great Commission, when Jesus commissioned the disciples to become apostles, when He promoted His students to become teachers and commissioned them to spread the Gospel to all nations. While the Bible is not clear how long after the Resurrection this occurred, this event is often connected to the Ascension, which occurred forty days after the Resurrection. We know from reading the other Gospel accounts that Jesus appeared several times to the disciples over that forty day period. In Matthew 28:16-17, we read “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshipped Him; but some doubted.” Here we see doubts that are even more “egregious” than those of Thomas. Here the disciples had actually seen the Lord but still doubted. However, they all showed up! Perhaps their doubts were not in the Lord, but in His plan for them. Maybe they had doubts about themselves and their ability to carry out His sacred mission—would they be able to speak, or lead, or organize?

Doubt is a part of life. No one goes through life without doubts. We doubt choices, friendships, our own abilities, others. And of course we have doubts about faith. This is normal. Just about everyone who goes to college has a doubt about whether they chose the right school, or whether they will do well. If everyone who ever had a doubt about college allowed the doubt to take over, no one would finish college. People stay, doubts and all, and eventually the doubts give way to confidence and people finish college, or stay with a company, or stay in a marriage, or don’t get rid of their children (yes, parents have doubts about their ability to raise children), and so many other examples of doubts that get worked through.

There is no sin in doubting. When in doubt, it is important to keep showing up. I’ve been a priest for many years, and I sometimes have doubts, not about the presence of God, but in the goodness of God, why God permits certain things to happen to others, and to me. I have often doubted my ability to communicate His message in sermons and in writing. I have doubted my ability to organize things, I have doubted decisions I have made both professionally and personally. It’s a good thing people can’t see my thoughts or read my mind because it is riddled with doubts about all kinds of things. But I keep showing up, doubts and all.

I was discussing recently with someone what kind of defense of our lives we would make at the awesome judgment seat of Christ. And my answer was to say “I might not have had the greatest faith, or made the greatest decisions, but I showed up and I hope that counts for something.” It certainly counted for Thomas.

Have mercy on me , O God. Have mercy on me.
I have defiled my body, I have stained my spirit, and I am all covered with wounds: but as physician, Christ, heal both body and spirit for me through repentance. Wash, purify, and cleanse me, O my Savior, and make me whiter than snow.
(Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode Four, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

It is normal to have doubts about even the most worthwhile things in our lives, including faith. The antidote to doubt is to continue to show up and be present. Just like Thomas did. In the end, he wasn’t “Doubting Thomas” but “Faithful Thomas,” who went on to start the church in India, and who ultimately gave his life for Christ. May we each have the strength to work through our doubts and keep showing up. And may we each encourage one another to show up, even in times of doubt.