This past Sunday the sermon was on Thomas. Thomas is often referred to as Doubting Thomas because of this passage of scripture in John 20:24-29 which says:
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 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 said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Every time I’ve heard this passage of scripture referenced it is used to teach that we should believe what God says without being a Thomas. God says “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” But here’s the thing. Thomas was asking for Jesus to show up. Thomas’ faith was at a point where he just needed to see what everyone was saying could be true for his life as well. And the thing is, Jesus showed up. Thomas wasn’t unlike any of the other disciples. They had all believed after Jesus had appeared to them. Thomas wasn’t less faith-filled than the other disciples, he just wasn’t present when everyone else got to see Jesus.
Personally, the last few weeks have been a series of crazy scenarios that have left me shaking my head. To begin rehashing the month of insanity, I must first explain that we have a house for sale and although it is being rented out, 2 years of hanging onto bad memories has been enough. The strain and stress of having this house has been the source of much pain and frustration for me in my relationship and understanding of God and has caused a lot of stress for our whole family as well.
Back in February, I had made my intentions known to our property manager that we would begin the process of listing the house late April/early May. I put in a few requests with our property manager asking for her to 1) arrange a showing of the house 2) speak with the renters regarding their intent to purchase 3) find out if any repairs needed to be made before listing the house. To say that she did the exact opposite of what we requested would be saying it as nicely as possible. To say she flat-out lied to us more than once would be as close to being specific as I will get.
In the midst of emails, texts and phone calls asking for simple requests like putting a for sale sign in our yard (which never happened) I accepted a job at our local Y. This job brings me back to my aquatic roots and is a good fit. There was a lot of work that needed to be done preparing for summer, and I also needed to chase down my WSI certification. The American Red Cross branch I had worked with back in IL was never the best and actually keeping up with things, so I placed a call to national. To summarize, 3 very lengthy phone calls where both myself and my certifying instructor were given at least 10 different stories lead to an email to the support center where I got the following response:
“At the Training Support Center processes are created, discontinued, and modified all the time. The Learning Center is not programmed to verify instructor certification before entering, or approving a course record. This is something that must be done by an agent at the Training Support Center. Unfortunately, having agents verify instructor certification before entering, or approving course records did not exist until recently. The course records entered, approved, and paid for prior to this process are valid, and will not be canceled, and refunded.” Essentially what this means is that the American Red Cross was very happy to take my money for providing swim lessons for the last 14 years, but they didn’t have the correct stop gaps in place to actually record the information accurately. They have decided I’m no longer certified because I missed a webinar that they didn’t email me about. So have no fear people who I taught all these years, your records will show I knew what I was doing, but my records must reflect that I don’t. Of course, ARC has a solution, I can give them about $500 to re-certify.
On top of all this, I needed to rent a car for a work trip. A comedy of errors on their part including charging me double, dropping the car off almost an hour later than promised and not being able to get me a receipt that reflected the correct amount I would need to submit for reimbursement left me on the phone with customer service for over an hour only to be told that if I had accepted the rental car they would have upgraded it for free….WHAT? Twitter actually got a rep to supposedly accept a true complaint as the previous 2 customer service reps didn’t record anything I said, only listened. Twitter is the reason my refund took 24 hours, not 5 days.
Then, to top it off, for the second year in a row a significant leader on our college campus resigned. Both years this has been someone my husband works closely with, who’s family we have become to love.
I know the above scenarios could all seem petty. I mean, who cares if we have signed a contract and monthly pay a property manager to manage, and she does nothing. Boohoo that I no longer have a WSI on record. Bummer that transitions in leadership above your husband at work are happening. The fact is none of these scenarios were life ending and yet they were certainly things that had me reeling. For an entire weekday after day it was as if every phone call, email and conversation ended in my being told that essentially “Yep, we screwed up, but oh well, you are on your own.” And of course, the fact that these scenarios were all piled on top of each other made each feel more stressful than they would have individually.
As the exhaustion built from having my days filled with frustration and restless sleep I found myself spiraling down a path, I began last May which took me months to crawl out of. You see, none of my situations seemed like things that needed to go against me. They were actually pretty simple fixes if the people I had to work with would have simply done what they promised to do. And even bigger than that, all of these situations seemed like things God could have easily remedied if He desired. These frustrations (just as months of unanswered prayer had created last year) caused me to begin to wonder if God had forgotten about me for a bit.
There are times in our lives when our faith is weaker. When it feels as if God has forgotten us, or has decided we need to step away from his favor for a bit. The reality is that we are warned over and over in the New Testament that we will see hard times. We are even given reminders on how to respond in those times. James 1:2-8 says:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Yes, I agree it’s best if we handle trial times by clinging to what we know about God’s character, but the reality is, we often don’t. This isn’t always because we don’t have a true faith, it’s because faith is hard. Jesus understood Thomas needed a little boost, so he SHOWED UP, and because Jesus showed up in a way that Thomas could do nothing but accept that it was Jesus’s actions he saw, Thomas had a heart change. Thomas had the chance to do what he had demanded, to put his hand in Jesus’ wounds, he didn’t need to. Seeing Jesus was enough.
I don’t know why Jesus chose to appear to the disciples without Thomas. It could have been to simply be able to have the scenario happen that occurred. I do know that he didn’t forget about Thomas. I’ll be honest, I sat through that sermon and wished I could jump up and point out that Thomas believed because Jesus appeared to him. Instead, I prayed for God to show up. On the ride home from church, I got a text message from our renter. With our property manager now out of the picture, we were free to negotiate the house sale on our own. Within an hour a price was agreed upon, and as I type this, we wait to hear about bank approval. I don’t know if things will work out or if we will have to list the house again this summer, but I do know this: I needed to know that in my time of weakening faith God would carry me, not leave me hanging, feeling as if He was silently observing. I needed to know God could hear me, and when I asked, He showed up. It may not have been as spectacular as Jesus appearance to Thomas, but I think we felt the same relief. This same answered prayer is what gives me the strength to hope that heading into the future God will bring the people to our campus that need to be there, and that as life continues He will show up, just as He did for Thomas.