“I can’t do this anymore,” a student recently confided to me. “I can’t read the headlines and believe in God. I can’t be a half-hearted Christian and it just doesn’t seem to make a difference in the world if I pray and read the Bible and do what I’m supposed to do as a Christian.”
My student is in the midst of a spiritual crisis. This is a young woman who, until recently, prayed and read her Bible daily. She served in leadership for two campus ministries, attended church regularly, and even formed a small group called “The Gal Pals” to delve deeper in to faith with her girlfriends. She is not a wishy-washy person of faith. She is deeply committed. Or was, until she felt she couldn’t do it anymore. She is scared – frightened because she believed deeply and now doubts deeply.
We can turn to the story of Thomas, a disciple who also believed deeply and doubted deeply, in the Gospel of John, 20: 24-31. Thomas separates himself from the other disciples for awhile after Jesus is crucified and buried. When he does return to the group, he does not believe the others that Jesus is risen. Furthermore, he puts conditions on his belief. Unless I see… Unless I touch, I will not believe. Jesus graciously obliges, but cautions Thomas that faith is not merely seeing and feeling, but taking Jesus at His word.
It may seem strange to put the story of Thomas and the resurrected Jesus in the middle of our Lenten journey. However, Thomas is a powerful reminder that our faith can stumble and recover; that we can have periods of doubt and still proclaim, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus didn’t let Thomas wallow in his despair and disbelief, but drew him back in to his community of faith and revealed himself to Thomas to restore his faith. God is with us in the midst of good times and bad; when our faith is solid and when it is shaken.
I told my student that God will continue to pursue her and that “membership” in our ministry did not hinge on the strength of her faith. Like Thomas, after withdrawing for awhile, she returned to our fellowship. She is allowing us to walk with her as she sorts things out for herself. We will journey with her to the cross, as Jesus reveals himself to her all over again. And in her own time and her own way, she too will be able to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!”
by The Rev. Susan Rose