Doubts are not the opposite of faith. Fear is the opposite of faith.*
Yesterday was the Feast of St Thomas, but as we don’t have a Wednesday service at St Nicholas’ church we marked Thomas today: John 20:24-29
Thomas, we are told in John’s Gospel, was not there when the risen Jesus first appeared to his disciples, following his resurrection; and refused to believe until he had seen with his eyes and touched with his hands. A week later, Jesus appeared again, and Thomas confessed him his God-appointed Lord.
For his stance, his insistence, Thomas is often labelled Doubting Thomas, though the gospel-writer calls him Thomas the Twin. And the Doubting usually comes with a negative tone.
But where was Thomas not there? He was not there hiding behind locked doors for fear of those who had orchestrated Jesus’ execution. Alone of the disciples (and despite Jesus’ habitual training of sending them out in twos) Thomas is unafraid to go out into the city, to investigate the lie of the land, and to bring back needed supplies.
And after Jesus appeared to him, later on, when most of the disciples carried the gospel west, Thomas struck out in the opposite direction, planting churches as he went, all the way to Kerala in the very southern tip of India. (Today the Thomas Church there is one of the longest continuous Christian communities in the world.) Unafraid.
The opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear. The church has long struggled with Thomases and Thomasinas, who make us uncomfortable with their difficult questions and awkward demands. But the struggle itself exercises our faith, disciplining it leaner, stronger, more sure. Less afraid.
So if you find yourself wrestling with doubts today, in matters of faith, know this: you are a gift to us. Your courage brings us all into a fuller experience of Jesus’ grace. May Jesus, in due course, satisfy your doubt; but may you never lose your capacity for doubting, which draws you out into the world for Him.
*Someone has counted that the encouragement “Do not be afraid!” is declared 365 times in the Bible, or once for every day in the year.