February 10, 2013

Lonely and full of doubt?

Friends have identical twin daughters. Another friend is married to an identical twin. When these twins stand side by side, I can distinguish which one is which, but if I see them separately, I’m not sure. I’ve also heard that identical twins have a closer relationship than do other siblings.

Twins are mentioned in the Bible. Jacob and Esau were twins, but not identical. From the womb they were rivals and never close to each other. The only other twin was Thomas, a disciple of Jesus. His twin is never named, but we do know a bit about Thomas.

When Jesus told the disciples that He was going away and added, “And you know the way to where I am going,” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:4–5). Skepticism?

Also, when Jesus heard that Lazarus was dead and decided to go to him, the disciples were concerned about Jesus’ safety. Nevertheless, Jesus was determined to go.

So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16)

Definitely a pessimist.

Most of us are more familiar with Thomas as the doubter who was not there when Jesus rose from the dead. When told that Jesus was alive, he said,

Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe. (John 20:25)

From this, he gets the tag, “Doubting Thomas.”

Today’s devotional calls Thomas a loner, a solitary man who stood apart from the others. Perhaps it was because He was with Jesus and his twin was not. That bond between twins was broken by the choice Thomas made to follow Jesus. Or maybe his choice caused a rift between them, like the rift between Jacob and Esau. Or maybe his twin was dead and he felt part of himself had died too.

However, the devotional writer suggests that Thomas was a loner, not because his twin was missing, but because of his doubt. As I read all the references about him, his skepticism does seem to separate him from the others. He stands opposite the impetuous Peter who was always in the middle of things. While the disciples rejoiced and shared the good news that “Christ is risen” Thomas was out there somewhere, alone in his doubt and missing the fellowship of shared joy.

The devotional writer says that there are those who doubt because they are lonely, but there are more who are lonely because they doubt. I can relate to this. When my heart is wandering and my faith is weak, I feel alone. I may even see the faith of others as naïve and foolish. No one wants to be around me either.

On the other hand, faith creates a bond and joyfully draws the people of God together as we draw closer to God. In contrast, doubt puts us on an island away from the Body of Christ and alone in our misery. As the devotional says, doubt is the mother of the hungriest loneliness.

With that in mind, I must look again at what Jesus did for this doubter and his loneliness. In the situation with Lazarus, instead of “dying with Him” Thomas saw Jesus raise that man from the dead. That is, seeing God at work is one answer to this loneliness of doubt.

Then eight days after the death of Jesus and His resurrection,

… his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although 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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26–28)

For this lonely doubter, Jesus Christ reveals Himself as the living Savior. He turns Thomas’ eyes from his skepticism and doubt to the reality of His power over sin and death so that Thomas can declare that Jesus is his Lord and God. Fellowship with Him through confession of faith is Christ’s cure for the loneliness of doubt.

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