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For Your Weekend: When God Gets Personal

Mallory Smyth

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read John 20:19–31

In 2008, evangelical speaker and writer Angie Smith found out that her fourth baby would not survive more than a couple of hours outside of her womb. She began blogging about her experience, and two years later, amid my conversion, I stumbled upon her blog. I read it from the beginning, bawling my eyes out, of course, but also finding deep encouragement as I sought to trust God the way she did.

As I read her writing, I noticed that although she shared her heartache vulnerably, she constantly wrote about God’s personal providence in her life. He was always showing up, creating small miracles in her daily activities. Wanting to know God intimately, I turned my heart to Him in complaint, “Lord, You seem to be all over this woman’s life. I don’t experience You in the same way. Please show up and show me that You care.”

Only a couple of days later, I skipped class to catch up on my blog reading. That day, I read her post about coming to faith. She had been far from God in college but had experienced the chaos that comes from living life on your own terms. Knowing something needed to change, she started attending a Protestant women’s Bible study, remarking that the women teased her a bit because all she had to bring was her pink Catholic Precious Moments Bible. 

I began to cry. Angie’s story was exactly what I was living through at that moment. I had experienced the discontent of walking away from God in college. Searching for Him, I, too, had joined a Protestant women’s Bible study, bringing the only Bible I had, a pink Catholic Precious Moments Bible. 

After reading her testimony, God convinced me that He is not only good, sovereign, and powerful but also personal. That post was written at least a year before I read it. He knew how it would hit my heart and answered my prayer in advance. He took me from belief to intimacy, an understanding that I could trust Him with anything. 

As I prayed through what is famously known as the story of doubting Thomas in this week’s gospel, I imagined the cry of Thomas’ heart was similar to mine. In John 20:24–29, Thomas was with the other apostles. He was most likely still experiencing the sadness and disillusionment from Jesus’ crucifixion when the others started to talk. Jesus was not dead but alive! 

Thomas would have learned that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11–18), other women (Matthew 28:9–10), the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–32), Peter (Luke 24:33–35), and ten of the disciples in the upper room (John 20:19–23).[1]

But Jesus had not appeared to him. 

Perhaps Thomas began to ask himself, Did I not walk with Him? Did I not spend the last three years with Him? Have I not been as loyal as everyone else? Why hasn’t He appeared to me? 

When faced with everyone else’s profound experiences of seeing the resurrected Jesus, he responded in John 20:25, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Theologians have called this response an unreasonable, strong statement of unbelief. Despite the many testimonies of his fellow disciples, he demanded tangible evidence of Christ’s death and resurrection to believe their words. 

Yes, Thomas’ statement was one of emphatic unbelief, but perhaps underneath his words was a prayer for a personal encounter with the risen Christ, proof that Jesus cared just as much to reveal Himself to Thomas as He did to everyone else. 

Of course, Jesus heard the cry of his heart. 

In John 20:27, Jesus again enters a locked room, looks directly at Thomas, and says, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.

Can you even imagine how Thomas must have felt at that moment? His heartfelt prayer was answered by a deeply personal God. With those words, Thomas knew that Jesus cared for his needs and was willing to meet them, even if those were riddled with doubt, fear, and selfish desires. 

This moment transformed Thomas the doubter into Thomas the missionary. Thomas spent the rest of his life bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to the men and women of India, where he was martyred in 72 A.D.[2]

What do you need from our Lord? Where are you doubting His goodness in your life? Where do you need Him to show up with personal action, revealing that His heart isn’t just for humanity—it’s for you? How would it change you?  

Your requests are not too much for God. He is not afraid of even the deepest doubts or the most outlandish prayers as long as they are honest and sincere. He is a personal God who longs to meet your deepest needs. But if, for some reason, the answer to your prayer doesn’t come in the time or form that you desire, do what Thomas did. Look to Christ’s wounds. They exist for you. “They are evidence of His love, of His sacrifice, of His victory, of His resurrection.”[3]

Take heart in Thomas’s story, dear sister. It gives you permission to hold nothing back from Him and to marvel at the way He meets your needs when you ask. 

As John 20:31 reminds us, “These are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” 

Honored to walk with you,
Mallory

Food for thought or journaling…

Take a moment to think about the things that keep you from drawing nearer to God. What questions could God answer for you? How could He show up for you personally that would transform your heart and increase your trust in Him? Take a moment to write these things down and then boldly ask God for what you need. 

Dear Lord, When I read the story of You and Thomas, I see myself. So many times I have seen Your providence in everyone else’s life but mine. Give me the grace to turn my gaze from the lives of others to rest only on You. Open my eyes to see Your personal presence in my life. Lord, I ask for a heart of gratitude for the ways that You meet me in my everyday life, and I give You permission to transform me into a woman who loves and trusts You more. Amen.

[1] David Guzik, “Study Guide for John 20,” Blue Letter Bible (25 March 2024): https://www.blueletterbible.org/comm/guzik_david/study-guide/john/john-20.cfm.
[2] “Who was St.Thomas the Apostle?” St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church (25 March 2024): https://stthomastheapostle.org/about/who-was-saint-thomas-the-apostle/
[3] David Guzik, “Study Guide for John 20,” Blue Letter Bible (25 March 2024): https://www.blueletterbible.org/comm/guzik_david/study-guide/john/john-20.cfm.

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