Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.” John 20:24-25 Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
“Unless I see, I will not believe!” This is one of the most honest and relatable statements in the Bible. We call Thomas, “Doubting Thomas” and sometimes I wonder if we say that in an affectionate way or in a derogatory one. “Doubting Thomas” is all of us at some point, which is why it is so refreshing that his story is told in the Bible.
Faith is believing without fully seeing or comprehending. There are lot of things in life that require us to have “faith”. Getting married is an act of faith—no one who gets married knows what it will be like to live with someone for decades, have children with them, go through life’s ups and down with them—so getting married is an act of faith. Having children is an act of faith—until you have a child, you don’t know what it is like to raise one. The same can be said for starting a new job, moving to a new city, going to college, buying a new home, having a serious surgery, and many other things.
None of these examples I mentioned require “blind faith,” in the sense of knowing NOTHING and still going forward. An arranged marriage, where you do not know the person you are marrying at all, if you meet them for the first time in the altar, that would require “blind faith.” If you get married to someone you know well, as most people do, you don’t know everything about them, but you know a lot, you certainly know enough to pledge to marry them. No one knows exactly what it is like to have a child until you have one, but we’ve all seen children and what they do at various ages and stages, so we know “something” of what it is to have a child. We all know people who have started new jobs, many of us have as well, so starting a new job isn’t totally foreign either.
Just about every time we “take a leap of faith,” that leap is accompanied by some doubts. Who has a child and has never wondered “what did I do?” Who hasn’t ever questioned “Why did I marry THIS person?” Or “Why did I buy this car?” or “this house” or “why did I move to this city?” Doubts are part of life.
Unfortunately, the devil seizes upon our doubts and causes us to lack confidence in ourselves and others. It is one of his tricks. Doubt and distraction go hand in hand, and many times these lead to levels of destruction.
How do we defeat doubt? Well, doubt leads to lack of confidence, which leads to fear. And the antidote to fear is love. In I John 4:18, we read: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Love is built through vulnerability. When you want to grow in your relationship with anyone—a friend, your spouse, your child—when you make yourself more vulnerable, that’s when love grows. It definitely takes some faith to be vulnerable. And sometimes one gets burned when he or she makes himself or herself vulnerable. But more often, I think, when one is vulnerable, the result is positive. And what I know is that without being vulnerable, there is no way that a deeply loving result is possible.
Most of us have probably had doubts about the faith. We have wondered “is there really a God?” “Is this whole story of Jesus as told to us in the Bible true?”
Many of us have doubts about OUR personal faith—“Do I believe enough?” “Do I really believe at all?” “If my life were to end today, do I really believe in eternal life?”
And probably all of us have doubts about God’s plans for our lives and the lives of others. Many times I’m scratching my head and wondering why certain things happen in the world. And also, why certain things happen to me. These doubts again are cured with vulnerability—in my times of doubt, I increase my efforts to pray. I increase my efforts to worship and be involved in things of faith. I go to confession or talk to my spiritual father and talk it over with him.
There are certain things about the Christian faith that I can say for certainty. First of all, I have “seen” enough of the “things of God” that I know there is a God. Looking out at the creation, seeing clouds in the sky, feeling the gentle breeze, there is no way that these things are man-made. I have seen enough beautiful things in my life that defy any human logic or human ingenuity that I know that these things have to be from God. And even if I had no personal experience of God, I’ve known enough people who have had experiences of God that either the message of Christ is true, or there are a lot of people walking in this life whose lives are a fraud. I’ve read stories of saints who have given their lives for Christ, who died because they loved Him. Who is going to die for a fraud? No one.
Doubts are normal! Thomas was really a lot like us. We aren’t likely to see Jesus walk into our office today and show us His hands and His side. But we can see Christ in so many things—in nature, in our own gifts, in beautiful things that defy rational explanation, and in the lives of many who are faithful to Him.
Thomas, who was also called the Twin, was not there when You appeared to the Disciples, O Lord, and therefore he did not believe that You resurrected. Thus emphatically he cried aloud to those who saw You, “Unless I put my finger in His side and the wounds created by the nails, I will not believe that He indeed arose.” (From the Praises of Orthros, Thomas Sunday, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
When in doubt, pray it out!
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