“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:25
The lives of many of the saints prior to a conversion or reversion resonate well with me. I can be fearful and naïve like Peter, selfish like Augustine, a mess like Saul, scrupulous like Therese, and dark like Teresa of Calcutta. But out of all the saints, none resonate with me quite like St. Thomas the Apostle. As much as I would love to say that I would have been like one of the “believing without seeing” apostles, I wouldn’t have; I would have boldly demanded to see the nail marks.
You see, every time we question what the future looks like, we say to God, “I will only believe if you show me.” And His answer? “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29).
The supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and love are impossible to achieve based on one’s own efforts; rather, they are gifts from God and require His grace for possession.
When we look at St. Thomas, we are painted an image of the interior lives of our souls. We cannot look at him without seeing ourselves and how we would have responded.
A friend once told me that God presents us the same lesson over and over until we learn it. By far the most challenging lesson of my life and the greatest cross I have had to bear again and again has involved accepting uncertainty and being joyful in spite of it. Is it pride? Is it mere discomfort? Of that, I am, again, uncertain; yet, I know that this life is full of the “not knowing.” So I fall down and cry out, “My Lord and my God!”
I cannot count the number of times I have uttered the phrase, “I really will be okay with whatever happens; I just need to know so I can prepare for it.” What I simply mean is that I don’t want something thrown on me that I don’t expect because that is a lot more painful than what I already have mentally prepared for. And while I ultimately believe that any plans I have are far exceeded by His, to hope against hope is impossible without His gentle graces, and I often find myself locked in a battle of wills – mine against His.
How often in our lives do we take the reins simply because it’s easier than waiting? And in doing so, we are questioning His magnitude, just like St. Thomas.
Rather, our hope should lie in the joys of eternal life, and every single desire of ours on this earth needs to transformed into something that points to that future. But, because of our smallness, we cannot see that far ahead and simply hold onto the mortal desires we want now.
Our lives present daily opportunities for believing without seeing. Yet, it isn’t until something large pokes its head around the corner that we start to doubt. Indeed, the questioning really only matters because we are attached to the outcome, and as a result, our feelings are on the line. Thus, we intensely fear suffering more than His actual will.
I am reminded of Abraham, who waited so long for Isaac. However, once he had him, God told him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. It’s only when God saw Abraham’s faith that He intervened. And most importantly, I think of our Mother, who hoped against hope throughout the thirty-three years of Jesus’s life, trusting in God’s promises despite the outcome.
In Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict stated, “Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. ‘By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving him].’”
Thus, in desiring His will and His will alone, we are transformed into creatures of pure faith, hope and love; individuals who long for His plans rather than our own. And in doing so, we become believers who haven’t seen and are able to say thy will be done.
“Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations, and say continually: The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me, but in me and I in Him.”
-St. Francis de Sales
Betsey Sawyer is an attorney and adjunct instructor in Mississippi, and works for Women of Grace as the Mission Advancement Coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo courtesy of Eliza Kennard Photography).