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He must have taken it personally.

Jesus had triumphed over death and hell before rising from the dead and walking through walls to get to his people. He must have known who would be in the room.

And he chose to come when Thomas wasn’t there.

When Thomas came back, he doubted just as much as the others had before they’d seen Jesus with their own eyes. It was reasonable to doubt. Nobody had ever risen from the dead under his own power before. So they’d all rolled their eyes at the hysterical women babbling about Jesus being back. “They’re overwrought,” they’d smirked, looking patronizingly past these recently devastated women who were walking on air. They didn’t bother investigating the claim.

The dead don’t rise. There was nothing to investigate.

It must have been harder to overlook the excited clamor of his dearest friends as they stumbled over their words and interrupted each other, eager to share the story of what they’d seen and heard.

But the dead don’t rise. You and I look back through two thousand years of believers and find it inconceivable that Thomas could refuse to accept what we so deeply believe, but we can’t imagine the impossibility it must have seemed. This claim was so absurd as to make Thomas doubt the story (and perhaps the sanity) of every person he trusted most in the world.

At first, maybe he thought they were lying, that they had fabricated some elaborate hoax and just didn’t let him in on it. He must have been angry and hurt. But he would not be convinced.

Later, perhaps their earnestness began to persuade him that they were sincere. But they couldn’t be right. The dead don’t rise. And so he began to worry, wondering if grief had driven them all mad. Was he the lone sane holdout? Would he spend the rest of his life trying to care for these men he had so respected?

But they just didn’t stop. Their story didn’t change. They weren’t desperate to convince him and they weren’t irrational and incoherent. What they were was changed. They were happy. Not just happier than on Holy Saturday. Not just happier than on Palm Sunday. Wildly, radiantly, absurdly happy, like he’d never seen them before.

And they were peaceful. The Sons of Thunder and the Zealot and even bold, brash Peter. Before terribly long, Thomas must have started to believe. How could he doubt with such testimony surrounding him? How could he demand more proof than the peace and joy he saw in these men?

And so—maybe—he began to wonder why. Why had Jesus waited until Thomas was away? Why had he appeared to the Ten and not the Eleven? What was wrong with Thomas? Didn’t Jesus want him?

All this must have been eating him up inside, the same way it does when we begin to have doubts in the midst of a faithful community. We may wonder at the easy faith of the others at first, but eventually, we begin to worry about ourselves. What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t faith come easily to me? Does God even want me?

Who knows how many millions of people have wrestled with these questions in the dark, plastering smiles on their faces and bowing their heads beatifically while the storms of doubt raged within? Who knows how many millions have refused to pretend, seeing themselves out the minute the questions began to arise?

Not Thomas.

Thomas didn’t pretend. He doubted out loud. He questioned. He objected. But he stayed. He did it all right in the center of that fledgling Christian community, surrounded by the ones whose faith he so envied.

Jesus stayed away for a week. The longest week of Thomas’s life. The most painful week he’d ever spent, bouncing between doubt and fear and anger and shame. But still, Thomas stayed.

Because he stayed, he was there when Jesus returned, ready to examine the holes in his hands and feet and side.

Because he spoke up, he had the chance to have every doubt resolved.

I imagine that when Jesus walked into the upper room that second time, every head spun toward Thomas. I picture their faces alight with the thrill of knowing that their brother was finally about to have his heart restored as theirs had been. I see them calling his name, pulling him forward, shoving him toward Jesus, where Thomas hangs his head in shame. Shame over his doubt, shame over his second-class status.

And I hear Jesus say, “It’s okay. Thomas, it’s okay. It’s okay if you need to stick your finger in the holes or put your hand in my side. I don’t mind.”

Thomas was expecting rebuke, but he heard only compassion. And the man we’ve called Doubting Thomas for two thousand years cried out, “My Lord and my God!” He proclaimed the divinity of Christ as nobody had before—not because he had never struggled to believe but because he had never stopped struggling. He had never given up.

It isn’t always easy to believe. Not in the Resurrection, not in the Real Presence, not even (in this world so full of cruelty and pain) in the goodness of God.

There is nothing wrong with wrestling with doubt.

But keep wrestling. Keep fighting. Keep begging the Lord for answers, grabbing ahold of him like Israel of old and refusing to let him go until he blesses you (Gen 32:27).

Take a page from Thomas’s book: do it out loud and do it in community. Don’t pretend you’re doing fine until your faith has corroded to nothing. And don’t walk away because you’ve begun to doubt. Bring your struggles to the Church, to the people in your community who really know and really love the Lord. Tell them about the grief that makes you wonder if God hears you, about the shame that makes you want to hide from him, about the rage against predatory priests that makes you want to burn the Church to the ground, about the questions nobody can answer and the answers that leave you cold.

Maybe you, like Thomas, will find your questions answered in the end. Maybe you, like Thomas, will come out of the doubt with a faith that’s the envy of everyone around you. Maybe you, like Thomas, will be able to look back on the struggle and praise God that he left you in the dark so that you could truly appreciate the beauty of the light.

If nothing else this Easter, know this: you are not alone in your doubts and your fears and your darkness and your loneliness. Plenty of Saints have been there. And St. Thomas especially will not stop praying for you until you’ve seen the face of Jesus, too.