…to the unwaveringly faithful.
There is this story in the Bible, immediately following Jesus’s death and resurrection. He’s been sighted. People are talking about it. They are in a fervour because he has indeed kept his promises. He’s the freaking Messiah, and he overcame death on the cross. Like Lazarus, he came back.
He was one of the apostles. He followed Jesus, listened to his teachings, tried to live his life according to those principles. He also did not believe it when ten out of the twelve apostles were telling him that Jesus had indeed returned from the dead. He wasn’t there when Jesus turned up, and so he needed proof.
Now, most of us will remember how he weeped when Jesus allowed him to see his scars, and we’ll skip to the end to what Jesus concludes about it all:
Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.
You might even take that as Jesus’s ultimate sucker punch on what it truly means to be faithful…but in that beautiful message, you might also forget that Jesus showed up for Thomas and allowed him to see what he needed to see in order to believe.
So which is it, then? Having faith without seeing, or seeing in order to have faith? And like many philosophical questions over which I anxiously contemplate without end, my answer is: it depends.
Extreme Situations Engender Extreme Reactions
Now, because of what the world has become these days, I’ve been inundated with religious messages of hope and of faith by strangers on the internet and by friends and family. For me, a constant Doubting Thomas, I do not fret over these reassurances freely given. (I really appreciate them, thank you.)
But what I do fret over are the expectations I feel come attached with those messages. In many ways, the impression is that I am expected to be something other than a doubter. Maybe it’s my anxious brain, maybe it’s not, but the reality is that sometimes, for people who doubt, being told to have faith and keep praying is not always enough.
I am constantly battling with my personal faith. Believing that prayers will be answered, that there is even hope to believe in is the proverbial “thorn in my side” that I will most likely carry with me for my entire life. Part of that is the anxiety and depression, and for those who continue to recommend prayer, it helps ease the pain, but it’s not going to cure me.
Sometimes, I can believe without seeing. But if I were truly honest, what I want to say now to the extremely faithful is: most times, I’m like Thomas — I need to see.
Please humor me, faithful people who don’t need to see. I think there was a reason for talking specifically about Thomas’s doubt. Not to shame the doubters (as I used to believe) but to reassure them. A whole lot went on before we got to the “blessed are those” moral of the story. (And to be frank, I don’t think that it’s even a moral all of us can aspire to live by…not all of the time.)
Because what did Jesus do when he figured out Thomas’s doubt? Did he go to his house and tell him off? Did he refuse to see him altogether? No.
He gave Thomas exactly what he asked for: he showed him the physical proof of his scars to assuage his doubt and bring him some kind of confirmation. In addition to commending those who have faith without seeing, he allowed room for those who needed something more. Without judgment. Without expectations for him to change who he essentially was in that moment: a doubter who needed proof.
So, to my dear friends and family who have been sharing hope and lifting up prayers and trying to keep me faithful, I am truly thankful. But if I seem to be a little less fervent in my faith, a little less exuberant in my acceptance, please have patience me, a doubter: sometimes I’m not able to go on faith alone. And there’s no shame in that, really.