Living Without Reservation
Doubting Thomas and the Power of the Resurrection
Robin Weidner, April 2010

(This is part two of a three part series, see part oneLingering at the Cross.)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  1 Peter 1:3

It was early morning and I was drifting between sleep and waking. Suddenly, I found myself awake, but 20 years in my past. As I looked at my children at ages, 5, 6, and 8, I thought, “God has taken me backwards in time. This is his gift to me.”

My first emotion was joy! I was outright elated.  Here I was in the past, with a full memory of the future. My mind spun with all the changes I could make.  I could change the trajectory of any mistakes I had made. I was being given a second chance.

And looking at my beautiful children playing, a list of changes I’d make began to crystallize. Almost as quickly, I realized perhaps I could even shortcut all the years of pain from sexual addiction. I’d lay down boundaries, starting now…

As I pondered discussions to have with Dave, I also began to realize the things I might lose if my life spun in a different direction. Our house, my career, Secure in Heart, sexual addiction ministry, the good place we’re at in our marriage…

And most of all, my relationship with God.  The deep, personal, intimate, secure walk with God that had come through devastation, through pain, through loss, through sorrow, and even through mistakes and sin.

Suddenly, I knew the cost was just too great.  I simply couldn’t risk the truest treasure of my life. Even if I could short cut my mistakes (most likely only to be replaced by a whole new set), could I guarantee I’d find my way back?

The dream ended as suddenly as it began. The next thing I remember was Dave asking if I’d like to go on a prayer walk.

On that walk, I thought about Thomas the doubter, the witness to the resurrection…and what it takes to move past our reservations, fears and doubts to follow a risen Lord.

 From the cross to the resurrection… (John 20)

 “Then He said to Thomas, Reach out your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand and place [it] in My side. Do not be faithless and incredulous, but [stop your unbelief and] believe!” John 20:27 (Amplified)

Thomas was with the apostles when Mary Magdalene came bursting into their presence… “The Lord is alive!  I saw him. He told me to go and tell you, that he has risen from the dead!”

As recognition of Mary’s testimony began washing over the room, Thomas abruptly stood up and left. Pulling his hood over his head, he rushed down the street to get as far as he could from this false hope. Hope promised nothing but more pain.

The very next night, when Jesus appeared to the disciples, showing them his hands and side, Thomas wasn’t there.  When Jesus breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” Thomas was absent.

Later, when several men brought him the news, he responded, “Unless I see the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” In fact, for seven long days, Thomas would let his reservations (no doubt magnified by Satan’s whispers) drown out the clear evidence of new life. Reservations like…  

Doubt — Maybe my experiences with Jesus weren’t so real.
Despair — Wanting Jesus back doesn’t make it so. Why can’t they accept he’s gone?
Shame — Everyone else seems to have no problem believing…maybe I just don’t have enough faith for this!

Finally, missing the brothers and sisters he was so close to (and strengthened by the prayers of the other disciples), Thomas found his way back to the fellowship. And there, Jesus mercifully came to Thomas, seeing beneath the pain in his heart to the loyalty, courage and faith underneath. He showed Thomas his hands and let him touch his side.

Thomas’ response was humble, his repentance heartfelt,  “My Lord and my God!

Living Without Reservation

Reservation — The act of keeping back, withholding; a limiting condition.

In this series, we’ve been talking about the call of Jesus to die (see Spring Glory). This death always involves some kind of loss.  Like Thomas, I can become so focused on these losses (and what they say about me), that I completely miss the new creation getting ready to blossom.

In those times, I can make one of two mistakes…

Retreating into my thoughts. As an introvert, I need to pull away by myself to recharge. (And I often retreat alone with God to find perspective and hope.)  But if I keep my fears, doubts and insecurities to myself, Satan’s whispers can start to steal my faith.

Stepping back from the fellowship. As Satan shames me for my faithlessness, I can fall back to my old independent (me-centered) ways of managing pain…through self-reliance, perfectionism, or trying to rely on my own strength.

We see from the scriptures that, as much as Jesus loved Thomas, he didn't seek to lure him out of hiding with an appearance. Instead, he waited until Thomas reunited with the fellowship to reveal himself. What does this mean for us?

When we come together with others, Jesus can show himself to us right at our place of need. A life without reservation requires letting others in, being real about our own doubts and drawing from their faith.

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20

I so appreciate that Thomas was willing to be real about his doubts (paving a path for all of us who sometimes doubt). But, Jesus' intention was never to leave Thomas, or any of his other followers, devastated at the cross.

New Life through the Resurrection

Back to my dream and the prayer walk with my husband. As we walked out of the door, I grabbed a book on parenting adult children…thinking I might read on the way to the wetlands.  Dave invited me to read out loud.

In the first chapter, the author described in intimate detail the heartbreaking pain of her journey with her firstborn son and her decision to let go. By the end of the chapter, I was choking out the words through my tears.

As we stepped out the car, let the dog loose to run, and began walking, my husband began to pray out loud.  His joyful prayer stunned me. Didn’t he hear what we just read?

But, as he prayed on, I began to hear a symphony of birds singing around us. A few minutes later, three pheasants lit up from the trees next to us and flew overhead.

And then I remembered…the cross and the resurrection. Sorrow and joy. Letting go and finding hope.  On our drive to the wetlands, God took me to the cross.  But he didn’t leave me there. Through my faithful husband, he reminded me of his resurrection power.

As a missionary, Thomas experienced this power. He went the farthest of any of the apostles, to the countries least likely (from human appearance) to be receptive to Jesus. Evidence suggests that Thomas established numerous churches in India and Iran before he was eventually martyred.

And now, his life calls me to move past my weakness, past my reservations, even my cross…to embrace a secure faith that both receives from and reaches out to others. And just as Thomas needed to see the marks of Jesus’ suffering to believe, suffering is the bud that blooms into a living hope.

This resurrection faith that scorns the shame of the cross, believing that Jesus himself will bring new life, is the heart of the Secure in Heart ministry!

Continue to part three: Letting Go — Peter (and me!)

Jeremiah 17:5-8, Hebrews 11:1

Relinquishing control is initially painful, but allows for new energy.  Write down some time when you felt God calling you to let go. How was Jesus working to grow your faith?

Choose one thing you are afraid of giving to Jesus. Cup your hands in front of you and picture that thing in your hands. How does it feel? What emotions does it stir?

Then turn your hands over, saying to Jesus, “I entrust this to you.” Picture Jesus taking that person, or situation, or trial and walking away with it in his care.  Journal about how you feel.

For more articles, check out the Cup of Security Archives.