History has (understandably) given the apostle Thomas a bad rap. You know the story: After Jesus was raised from the dead, He miraculously appeared to His disciples and showed them His scars, proving He really did pull off the greatest miracle of all time. He is indeed the Son of God, and He defeated the power of death, just as He predicted all along.
It would have been an incredible sight, for sure. But for some reason our friend Thomas didn’t read the disciple newsletter that week, and he missed the meeting. His group of closest friends told him all about the miraculous visit, but it was just too outlandish for him to believe. His actions over those days forever gave him his new title: Doubting Thomas.
If you grew up going to church, you’re likely familiar with this story. As I read through it this week, though, something new popped out to me.
In John 20:26, it says: “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.”
Eight days later — a full week — Thomas was with them.
What a week that must have been.
I imagine those were the longest eight days of Thomas’ life. Not only did his friend Jesus get brutally murdered just a few days before, but his disciple buddies were facing all kinds of ridicule and violent threats for claiming Jesus had been brought back to life (the Scriptures make a point to tell us they were meeting in locked rooms).
After what had to have been a trying, emotional and confusing week, Jesus visits His disciples again while they were meeting. And this time Thomas read his emails, and he showed up to the disciples’ meeting.
For some reason, in God’s providence, Jesus made Thomas wait a week. Jesus could have come back to the disciples earlier. He could have made a special trip to Thomas’ house. But He didn’t. Eventually Thomas would get the proof he needed to believe, but he had to wait.
It’s easy for us, on this side of history, to say that Thomas should have believed all along. But to be fair, Thomas is forever branded as a doubter at least partially because Jesus made him wait longer than the other disciples.
Waiting is awful. Everything should be instant, and we need what we need now, right?
Waiting is a common theme throughout the Bible. Psalm 27:14 says:
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD.
That verse is a whopping 16 words, yet it tells us twice to wait on the Lord. Almost as if we were too busy to swallow it the first time.
Waiting teaches us. Yes, sometimes we have to wait in long lines at the grocery store, but waiting on the Lord is usually a different kind of waiting. Along with the inconvenience of not having our needs immediately addressed, waiting on God causes us to really exercise faith.
As the author of Hebrews famously wrote, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” When you can’t see the end of the path you’re on? That’s faith.
If we have a significant need — a prayer that goes unanswered, a sickness or injury that lingers, the loss of a job or even a loved one’s death — it takes significant trust to believe Jesus is with you. While we wait for resolution, faith becomes necessary. While the conflict remains unresolved, we’re left with a choice: Do we rest in God’s promises, or do we demand to feel Jesus’ scars?
Paul gave us some powerful and encouraging words in Romans 8:24-25:
Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
The next few verses give us insight for how we can do this. When we’re hoping for something we do not yet have, Paul reminds us we have the Holy Spirit within us. When we’re in the middle of our proverbial “week” of waiting, “We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (v. 26).
Sometimes when you’re waiting, you don’t even have words. When you’re hurt and confused and processing emotions you don’t understand, sometimes you’re left with wordless groans.
In those moments, God intervenes through His Spirit, but we still have to do our part of waiting and trusting. And that’s the beauty of Christianity — we have sin and trouble and pain, but we also have faith. Hebrews 6:18-19 says this hope is our refuge, an anchor for our souls.
It feels pretty horrible to wait for God’s answers to your seemingly unheard prayers. It’s hard. I get it. But in these moments, even when you don’t feel like it — no, especially if you don’t feel like it — take a moment to remember God’s promises.
What you do in your “week” of waiting matters. You may never get a resolution as concrete as Thomas did, but you have a firm and secure anchor for your soul. The Spirit is interceding on your behalf. The Creator of the universe is listening to your wordless groans.
So, one more time: “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD.”