Thomas, so often remembered as “Doubting Thomas”, deserves to be respected for his faith. He was a doubter, but his doubts had a purpose – he wanted to know the truth. Thomas did not idolise his doubts, he gladly believed when given reasons to do so. He expressed his doubts fully and had them answered completely. Doubting was only his way of responding, not his way of life.
Although our glimpses of Thomas are brief, his character comes through with consistency. He struggled to be faithful to what he knew, despite what he felt. At one point, when it was plain to everyone that Jesus’ life was in danger, only Thomas put into words what most were feeling, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). He didn’t hesitate to follow Jesus.
We don’t know why Thomas was absent the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, but he was reluctant to believe their witness to Christ’s resurrection. Not even ten friends could change his mind!
We can doubt without having to live a doubting way of life. Doubt encourages rethinking. Its purpose is more to sharpen the mind than to change it. Doubt can be used to pose the question, get an answer, and push for a decision. But doubt was never meant to be a permanent condition. Doubt is one foot lifted, poised to step towards or backwards. There is no motion until the foot comes down.
When you experience doubt, take encouragement from Thomas. He didn’t stay in his doubt, but allowed Jesus to bring him to belief. Take encouragement also from the fact that countless other followers of Christ have struggled with doubts. The answers God gave them may help you too. Don’t settle into doubts, but move on from them to decision and belief. Find another believer with whom you can share your doubts. Silent doubts rarely find answers.
Strengths and accomplishments:
- One of Jesus’ 12 disciples
- Intense both in doubt and belief
- Was a loyal and honest man
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- Along with the others, abandoned Jesus at his arrest
- Refused to believe the others’ claims to have seen Christ and demanded proof
- Struggled with a pessimistic outlook
Lesson from his life:
- Jesus does not reject doubts that are honest and directed towards belief
- Better to doubt out loud than to disbelieve in silence
- Where: Galilee, Judea, Samaria
- Occupation: Disciple of Jesus
- Contemporaries: Jesus, other disciples. Herod, Pilate
Key verses: “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 answered, ‘My Lord and my God!’ “ (John 20:27, 28).
Thomas’ story is told in the Gospels. He is also mentioned in Acts 1:13.