Tuesday, March 29, 2016

And then there was Thomas...

     It’s days later.  The rumors have been swirling since last Sunday.  The people he trusted affirmed it.  He knew that he wanted to believe it himself.  More than anything, he wanted to believe…but he just couldn’t.  Throughout the past few days there had been so much fear.  So much confusion.  So much loss.  His participation in a powerful, life-changing ministry was suddenly ended on a cross.  The confidence and hope he had for three years was replaced with the screams of death and then deafening silence as a large stone sealed a tomb.  He wanted to believe.  He wanted so very, very badly to believe.  But a lifetime of trusting his senses wouldn’t let him go there.  Still, he wondered to himself, what would it mean if Jesus really were alive?
     As the story of Thomas unfolds in John 20, it is easy to scoff at his unbelief, his inability to trust his friends, his failure to rejoice in the hope that was before him.  The story of “doubting Thomas” has even become a byword for a person’s lack of faith.
     But we might need to cut Thomas a little slack.  To have your world radically altered is disorienting to say the least.  It can be difficult to know who to trust after something tragic, or painful, or unexpected happens.  It can be difficult to know what to trust, or how to discover what it takes to establish a new normal that again gives meaning and purpose to your life.  Thomas wanted to see Jesus, to touch his wounds to feel a real body of flesh and blood.  And then, he would know.  “Give me something I can believe in,” he might have thought to himself.
     For any couple who has walked through a dark valley together, it is an incredible blessing to come out the other side and be at a better place together.  But more often than not, it is a tough journey that takes patience, grace, forgiveness, changes in behavior, and new ways of thinking about your world.  Because we live in a microwave-society, we want instant answers, instant satisfaction, and instant restoration.  But relationships are a crock-pot-process that takes time.  So, we cautiously go through the process to heal.  And when things are finally better, it can be easy to become a “doubting Thomas,” knowing that the feelings you are having don’t line up with the hurt you have been through.
     Hurt can come in a lot of different ways.  It can be a quick, one-time happenstance or prolonged series of events.  It can come from a moral failure, or from ongoing miscommunication that leads to resentment and frustration.  Regardless of how it comes, it creates a rift in the relationship.  It compromises trust.  It causes feelings of isolation.  It can cause feelings of shame and guilt. So when healing occurs and the hurt subsides, it might be hard to trust that something else besides those negative feelings toward your mate can reside in your heart—and not just reside, but grow stronger each day.
     But the important move for Thomas came when he accepted the reality.  When he knew undeniably, Jesus is alive.  Jesus is exactly who and what he said he was, and this is something solid that Thomas could now build on.  In marriage, the move to a better relationship happens when you can lay aside the doubt fueled by past hurts, and take hold of the goodness that is now beginning to grow in your relationship.  Depending on where you are at in the healing process, it might just be a small ray of hope right now.  And you might feel tempted to ignore the good that is happening and hold on to the hurt, because that seems less risky than putting your hope and faith into your mate again.
      If you are coming out of a time of pain, it is understandable that you might want some solid, convincing proof that the good you’re now experiencing with your mate is real.  But there comes a time that you have to step out on faith in what you see, and hear, and experience, so that you can respond in kind, continue to reconcile, and find a new and stronger “normal.”  Even Thomas didn’t remain a “doubting Thomas.”
     Trust is rebuilt through time and consistency.  As you mate demonstrates good intentions toward you and the marriage relationship, have faith that in Jesus, you and your mate can find hope for a stronger marriage.

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