Baty Daniel, EYC member, gave the following reflection on Youth Sunday, April 12; this was excerpted in the May Communicator.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Amen.
I’m sure everyone here has heard the expression, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” We hear it almost every day. We most often say it when someone doesn’t believe what they are being told. These people are looking for proof in an uncertain world, but I think that’s an awfully pessimistic view. Faith, however, does not provide the luxury of certainty. Faith requires optimism. Faith requires you to believe in something that you can’t prove. The letter to the Hebrews describes faith similarly: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see.”
With all faith comes doubt. Doubt happens. Doubt happens especially when something goes wrong in our lives. In hard times, we lose the optimism that allows us to keep our faith. We strive to live according to God’s word, to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Then, when something bad happens to us, all we want to know is why. If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, why does He let bad things happen to us?
I do not have an answer to that question. In Romans 11, we learn that God’s judgments are unsearchable, and His ways are inscrutable. We will never know why, yet we try to rationalize an answer, and usually not a good one. We worry that bad things happen so that we don’t take the good things for granted. Or because we deserve it because we are inherently sinful. Or we wonder if God is there at all.
In this way, we can understand Thomas’s “I’ll believe it when I see it” response to the resurrection. Thomas was in one of the most uncertain times of his life, when he did not know what to do or what to believe. Jesus, the man who had claimed to be the son of God and who Thomas had followed for almost three years, had been crucified three days earlier. Several bad things happened, and Thomas began to doubt. First and foremost, this passage reminds us that doubt is inevitable. If Thomas, who knew Jesus personally, had doubt, how can we be expected not to doubt? But this reading also tells us how to reclaim our faith. If we saw Jesus resurrected like the disciples did, we wouldn’t doubt. We would know. But we, like Thomas, weren’t there, so instead, we must blend faith with doubt, rather than enjoying the luxury of knowledge and certainty. Only when Thomas saw Jesus did he then overcome his doubt, and in the same way, our faith will be renewed when we seek and see God in our own lives in order to renew our faith.
And that brings me back to where I started: I’ll believe it when I see it. That’s how Thomas thought. Thomas had followed Jesus. He had seen Jesus’s works firsthand, so Thomas was able to believe what he saw. But it isn’t so easy anymore now that Jesus has died. Thomas needed to abandon believing when he saw and instead believe in order to see. In that way, Thomas is a role model for all of us. We can’t be a witness to the Resurrection with our eyes, but we can with our faith. If we lack faith, then we will not see God, but once we have faith, we will see God in ways we previously did not.
People see God in any number of places, but personally, I see God most in other people. There was a particular time where I saw God that inspired me to believe in Him. It was ninth grade at Winterfest, a five-day retreat for Episcopalians over New Year’s. The New Year’s Eve closing Eucharist was the best service I have ever been a part of. It wasn’t the sermon, or the location of the service, or even how good the bread was at Eucharist. It was the hymns. Not even the hymns as much as the people singing them. Everyone was singing. And I do mean everyone. Even I, a reserved kid who had never met any of these people four days earlier, was singing in front of all of them, all the while thinking, “Yes, God is here. I know He is here.” And that was the first time I could confidently say that I had faith.
If you take one thing away from this, let it be this: Remain faithful. Remain hopeful. Find God in your life. That will be easier in good times, but it is just as important in the hard times, when your faith is truly tested. Staying optimistic is much easier said than done, but hope is ultimately the key to faith.
God loves those who love Him, and those who diligently seek God will find Him. Amen.