By Renae Kranz
Have you ever doubted something was true or that it actually happened? Maybe you hadn’t seen enough evidence to convince you, or the person making the claim wasn’t as trustworthy as you’d hope.
Doubt can drive us to seek out the truth and stretch our beliefs. Or, it can haunt our thoughts and drive us away from the truth instead. Doubt is tricky.
Doubt is so tricky in fact, I need to clarify what I mean by doubt right from the beginning. I don’t mean doubt as a willful rejection of belief but rather a questioning of a difficulty in belief. To simplify, think of doubt as we’ll discuss here as questioning with the desire and openness to know the truth.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the most famous of doubters.
St. Thomas the Apostle is best known for doubting the resurrection of Jesus. At the same time, he is also known for his great faith once he saw Jesus resurrected. Can we believe with less proof than Thomas had?
What we know about St. Thomas
We don’t know a lot about Thomas. We might assume he was born in Galilee, and we know he was a Jew. Other than that, his life before his time with Jesus is all unknown. We don’t even know how he came to follow Jesus much less become one of the Twelve Apostles.
Thomas’s first words in the Bible appear in the Gospel of John (John 11:16). Jesus tells the apostles he intends to travel to Judea to visit Mary and Martha after the death of their brother Lazarus. The Jews had recently tried to stone Jesus in the area he intended to travel through, so the apostles were understandably worried about the trip.
Thomas’s courage is evident in this passage. Rather than stay behind, he says to the other apostles, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Regardless of his doubt after the resurrection, he also had great courage which would help him in his mission after Pentecost.
Thomas is heard from again just before the Last Supper. Jesus tells the apostles he will prepare a place for them: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going” (John 14:2-4).
Thomas then asks Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” (John 14:5) Thomas gets to the heart of it here on behalf of all of us. Wouldn’t you have been confused by Jesus’s words? He wants to understand, but like the other apostles, he just isn’t there yet. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Thankfully, Jesus offers words to help Thomas and the other apostles close the gap. He gives them the core truth of our faith: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
Thomas doubts because he does not see
We’re all familiar with Thomas because of his most famous encounter with Jesus after his resurrection. Because he wasn’t there the first time Jesus appeared to the other apostles, Thomas refused to believe what they claimed. He said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Luke 20:25).
He needed physical proof.
Many of us might be thinking right now, “I might have felt the same way.” And we certainly may have. It’s an extraordinary claim to say someone rose from the dead.
Thomas would get his proof. Eight days after his statement, he was with the other apostles in a room with locked doors. Jesus appeared to them and showed Thomas his wounds, asking him to see, touch and believe. Thomas fell to his knees saying, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28) It was an act of faith backed up by proof.
Is it a bad thing that Thomas needed proof first? Not necessarily. The Lord knows we will have doubts and questions. Even St. Peter doubted!
In Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus walks on the sea toward the disciples in the boat being tossed by the waves. Once He calms their fear and shock at seeing him walk on water, Peter asks the Lord to order him to come out on the water with him. Jesus beckons him and Peter gets out of the boat and begins walking on the sea, but fear and doubt overcome him quickly and he begins to sink.
The key to this passage is to notice what Peter did. He cried out to the Lord instead of trying to save himself: “Save me, Lord!” Jesus reached out to him immediately and grabbed hold of him.
This is how we can best handle doubt in our own lives—by reaching out to Jesus. He wants us to come to Him with our doubts and questions. He’s never angry or disappointed is us because we have them. He made us, He understands our weaknesses, and He is reaching out to us to resolve them.
All we have to do is reach out to Him.
When you feel doubt creeping in, take it to prayer. Listen for the Lord to enlighten your thoughts. You may have to do some research or ask others for help as well. Just don’t let those doubts fester into something much worse. Use them to bring you closer to the Lord.
After Thomas’s act of faith, Jesus said to him: “Because you have seen me, Thomas, you believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe” (John 20:29). Remember, the people Jesus is talking about here include you and I. Put your doubt at the feet of the cross and believe.
The mission and death of Thomas
We have few records (many of which are not very reliable) of exactly where Thomas went to spread the Gospel message. It is believed he went to India and spent much time there converting the people. He is still revered in India today.
According to Syrian Christian tradition, St. Thomas was martyred July 3, 72 AD, at St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, India. His feast day is July 3 and he is the patron of the blind, architects, carpenters and masons, geometricians, theologians and India.