Thomas was not with the other apostles when Jesus appeared to them the evening of the Resurrection. Through his absence he missed the revealing of Jesus when he came that night and stood in the midst of the little company alive, and showed them his hands. The other apostles went out from the room with hearts full of joy. They had their Friend again! We have no record of what happened that week—but we are sure they were wondrously glad.
But think of Thomas all that week. He had missed seeing the risen Jesus. His sorrow was uncomforted. There were no songs in his heart.
Do not many people have the same experience? Have you thought what you may miss any time you are absent from your church service? There is a story of a black man in the South who walked several miles to his church, and never failed to attend. One week he was noticed by a white neighbor trudging every evening through rain and slush to his meeting. “Why do you go so far to church these stormy nights? I would think you would stay at home when the weather is so bad.” The old man took off his hat in the cold rain, and said with deep reverence, “You see, we are praying in our church for a blessing, and I would not dare to stay away for one night, for that might be the very night the blessing we are seeking would come, and if I were not there I should miss it.”
Church services are God’s appointments. Christ asks his people to meet him. He always keeps his appointments, and comes with a blessing. If we do not keep our appointments with him, we shall miss the good, the cheer, the help we need, and which he came to bring to us.
Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus came. Those who came, saw the risen Lord and received his blessing. A great joy came into their hearts. But Thomas missed all this blessing.
We do not know what divine message may come to the worshipers in our accustomed place of worship, any Sunday morning. You may be in sorrow. The word that day may be a word of comfort, just the word your heart needs. Those who hear it thank God and go away with a song; but you, sitting in your home, nursing your grief, brooding over it, miss the message and go into another week unhelped, to walk all the days through gloom and shadow.
You are a young person, discontented, unhappy, not knowing what to do with your life. You did not feel like going to church, so you were not there. That day the preacher spoke of life’s meaning and purpose, every life a plan of God—and showed with unusual plainness and clearness how to live so as to fulfill the divine plan for it. He answered the very question your heart was asking. But you were not at the service and you missed the lesson which might have changed the course of all your future life.
You were greatly discouraged because of the hardness of the way. The week had been a difficult one—things had gone wrong, you had not done well in business, there had been tangles and misunderstandings in your friendships. Saturday you were sick at heart. Sunday you were in gloomy mood and did not attend church. The service was an especially uplifting one, telling of God’s love, full of cheer, encouragement, and impulses to joy. If you had been present, you would have been greatly helped by the services, the prayers, the Scriptures, the hymns, the sermon—toward gladness and victoriousness; you would have lost your discouragement in new spiritual courage, your weariness in magnificent enthusiasm. Others who were present that morning carried away with them, thoughts and inspirations which made all the week glad. But you, hiding away in your self-pity or your disheartenment, missed the message and the blessing, the kindling of hope and joy, and went into another week of weary struggle and toil unhelped.
Thomas’s mistake was that his gloom kept him from being present that night with the other apostles. Many people yield to discouragement, and discouragement hurts their lives. Discouragement is a sort of mental and spiritual malaria. It poisons the blood. Much of certain forms of sickness—is only discouragement darkening the sky, putting out the stars, quenching all joy and hope. It was discouragement which kept Thomas away from the meeting with the apostles that night. We see how that mistake almost wrecked everything for him. If Jesus had not been so marvelously patient with his gloomy, doubting disciple, giving him a second chance a week later, Thomas would never have recovered himself and got back into the apostolic family. But if he had been present at the meeting, he would have seen Jesus when the others did, and his discouragement would have been changed into faith, hope, and joy.
We should lose no chance to see Christ. We should seek the places where he is most likely to come; we should be ready to hear every word that might reveal him. We should keep ourselves always in the light of the truth, in the shining of God’s face. Christ is always coming to show us his hands with the print of the nails, to prove to us that he loves us. If we are always present when he comes, we shall never miss the blessing which he brings, and our lives will always be full of gladness. But the trouble with too many of us is—that we are not present when he comes. He comes continually in manifold ways. He comes in every flower that blooms, in every blade of grass that waves in the breeze, in every bird that sings, in every beautiful thing that grows. He comes in the sweet love of your home, in the laugh of your little child, in the kindness of your friend. He comes in all the blessings of the church, in the holy places of prayer.
A godly man said that the evening family worship had saved his home and its love. The days were full of little friction, and irritations. He was a man of quick temper and hasty speech, and often was the home music jangled. The close of the day was unhappy. But the evening prayer set all things right again. The father and mother knelt, side by side, with their little children, and as they prayed, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us,” they were drawn close together again in love. The little strifes were healed, and their wedded joy was saved. The sun was not allowed to go down upon their differences. This is one of the blessings of family prayer. Christ comes and appears to us alive beside the sacred home altar—and shows us his hands and speaks his word of peace.
In every part of true home life, Christ is always coming in little kindly, beautiful ways. In all pure friendships he comes continually with words and acts of cheer. Human kindness is simply God revealing himself, Christ showing his hands. The world and all life are full of lovely things. In the darkest gorges among the mountains, men find lovely little flowers blooming, which brighten the ruggedness; so the tender things of divine grace make beautiful the most painful experiences.
All this is meant to keep our lives cheerful. The joy is to dispel the sorrow. The sweetness is to overcome the bitterness, Jesus comes in a thousand ways, with cheer and comfort, to make us brave and strong, to keep us from despair. But how often do we miss the beautiful things, the pleasure, the happiness, the comfort that God sends to us. We always find the thorns—but we do not always see the roses. We feel the pangs, the sufferings—but do not get the pleasure, the joy, the cheer. We miss seeing Jesus when he appears alive, shows his hands, and speaks his words of peace—but we always see the cross, the grave, the darkness.
Shall we not learn the lesson which Thomas had not learned, and avoid making the mistake he made? Life is full of opportunities of blessing—but too often we miss them. Shall we not learn to accept every one of them?
The room was chill and uncomfortable, for it was midwinter. Presently a beam of sunlight stole in through a crack in the shutter, and fell in a patch of brightness on the floor. The little dog had been lying on the cold floor. But the moment he saw a spot of sunshine on the carpet—he got up and walked over to it and lay down in it. The dog teaches us a lesson. Wherever we see a spot of light in the darkness of our condition or circumstances, let us hasten to it and appropriate it. Whenever we find a comfort or a pleasure, however it may have come to us, let us accept it. Whenever there is any beautiful thing along our path, it is for us; it was put there expressly for us; let us take it into our heart and enjoy it as we go on our way.
Let us miss no opportunity to be where Christ may be, to stand where he may pass by, to go where he may come. The mistake of Thomas was that in his gloom and discouragement, he was not in the company of the apostles that night. He lost the opportunity of seeing the Lord living, and of having his doubts and griefs swept away by the light of faith and love. Many of us continually miss opportunities of gladness and beauty. We nurse our sorrows and turn not our faces toward the comforts of God. We stay in our little dark rooms with the shutters closed, and go not out into the blessed sunlight. We are not as happy Christians as we ought to be. We miss blessings we might enjoy. We live in the mists and fogs of the valley, when we might be dwelling on the clear mountaintops. We neglect opportunities of receiving divine revealings, and then say we cannot believe. Let us open our hearts to the beauty and grace of Christ, however it may come to us. Then we shall have no more doubts and tears, but shall find light and joy everywhere!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for our King’s glory,
illustration by Devon | Lightstock.com
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on my website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.