While in the checkout line at our neighborhood discount store (that’s code for “Dollar General”), the man behind me asked how I was doing. Working hard at being honest and not giving the sometimes polite-but-not-real -“I’m fine” answer, I said, “I’m doing 0-kay …I always need prayer.” Putting my off-brand bleach on the counter, he said, “I’ll get that for you.” I hem-and-hawed back and forth about him not needing to do that, knowing I’d probably feel guilty or anxious about something that might have gone wrong in the transaction; yet still he pushed our items together and told the cashier to ring up my item with his. He was paying my bill.
If you know me well at all, you’ll know that I asked the cashier at least twice to make sure the item was paid for and that I wasn’t walking out of the store with something without paying. Good gravy! This was getting so much more complicated than it needed to be! The man even leaned down and spoke gently to me that he was just trying to do a “good thing”. I let him pay.
However, as we were walking out the door together, I asked the nice man if he was sure he had in fact paid for the item. Sensing my doubt, he pulled out the receipt and offered to show me. Of course I wanted to see the receipt! I not only wanted to see the receipt with my own two eyes and double-check it, I also wanted to grab it with my own hands to get a closer look. That’s what I got, right? Same name? Everything right? It all added up. He had paid the price for me.
On the last of the walk home, I felt nervous again wondering if I had done everything right. Too much thinking.
Then Someone reminded me …
Hadn’t the morning started off with a round of anxiety while cleaning –with bleach in hand, no doubt! And hadn’t I phoned a friend (a.k.a. husband and daughter) and texted 2 others to pray me through! What if God was somehow redeeming that earlier anxiety-experience? See the gift. Accept the gift.
But then the whole day seemed to come full circle…
Earlier that day at the neighborhood Bible study, Frankel had announced the topic, “Why Do You Doubt Me?” as we dug into God’s word in Matthew 14:22-36. I laughed. It was the second time in one week I had heard teaching on that same theme. As it turns out, Pastor Henry had just talked about Peter’s walking-on-the-water-sinking-rescued-episode the Sunday before in his message on “Greater Than the Storms.”
The message was so strong at this point that I felt like the Holy Spirit had pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with us –reminding me that I needed to hear this yet again. Everything was going to be okay. God was in control. Surrender. Grab hold of His hand and let Him pull me out. Let go of my own attempts to control. Trust Him. He is the Peace in the midst of the storm.
But enough about Peter! Now I’m also thinking about another disciple–Thomas! Thomas had spent a lot of face to face time with Jesus and seen the miracles up close and personal. Yet when others told him Jesus was not dead anymore but very much alive he still said, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them and place my hand into the wound in His side.” (John 20:25 NLT).
Peter may have had his doubting issues but now I’m thinking I’ve got an over-thinking-lack-of-trusting friend in Thomas. Did you catch that? He not only wanted to see the wounds in Jesus’ hands, he also wanted to touch the wounds in His nail-scarred hands and side. He wasn’t going to believe with just one look …or one touch. He needed proof 3 times over!
Jesus responded …
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:26-29 NLT)
I find it personally encouraging that Jesus didn’t fuss at Thomas, as we say in the south. He appeared to Thomas right where he was in life and spoke those first grace-filled words–“Peace be with you.” Right away, Jesus offered exactly what Thomas needed most…peace!
But He didn’t stop there. He followed up with proof of His love— letting Thomas actually touch the very wounds that had saved and healed his very soul. Knowing Thomas’ personality and his compulsion for proof and lack of trust, Jesus patiently loved him through it without condemning.
And Thomas responds to the God Who created him — “My Lord and my God!” –this was his Friend, his Savior, his Prince of Peace.
Jesus gave grace and help in time of trouble by making a way out and also placing a marker in Thomas’ life for the rest of his journey … “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” Jesus graciously let Thomas come just as he was with the need to see and touch, but He wouldn’t let Thomas stay there. He gave that needed word of challenge … have faith! Don’t doubt! Believe!
And honestly, I often find myself in Peter’s sandals — feet slipping, sinking in my faith a bit, losing sight of my Savior. Yet I also find myself in the same room with Thomas — bless his heart! — being doubtful, needing proof, a little obsessive over having to touch every single wound to prove the reality of what is right before my eyes.
And Jesus speaks lovingly to me …
“Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“…come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29 NLT)
And this is my hope …I can bring all of my doubts and fears and anxious over-thinking to Jesus and He will love me through it — making a way out, and even placing another significant marker in my life of wisdom and direction for the rest of the journey.
And when it comes to the sin thing and the struggles of life, I can be fully assured …Jesus has already paid in full ! Trust Him and believe.