Jesus Journey: 40 Days in the Footsteps of Christ

Day 39

From Doubt to Decision

Read John 20:24–31

We’re thoughtful as we walk to the next site in Israel, the Cenacle, the traditional location of the Upper Room just outside the walls of Jerusalem.

A member of our group tells me how she once loved to mock her own daughter for having faith in Jesus. Yet on this very trip this woman was baptized as a believer in the Jordan River.

It happens to the best of us.

My new friend is just joining the ranks that started with Thomas in the upper room. He too was skeptical. In fact, he announces, “I will not believe — unless I myself put my fingers in the nail holes.” He is adamant.

Then Jesus shows up.


I think about Thomas as we visit the Cenacle. Although this is the area Christian pilgrims have visited for about 1,700 years to remember what happened in the “upper room” mentioned in Scripture, it’s unknown whether this is the actual spot where those events took place.

The building itself has changed, of course. The current structure was probably part of a Crusader church built about a thousand years ago. It’s been remodeled since, but it gives us a quiet place to remember that, somewhere in this city, the risen Christ appeared to Thomas and changed his mind.

Later, Jesus walks with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. “We had hoped…” they say, the sad sentence of believers who have lost their faith.

Then Jesus changes their minds too. Even before they knew for sure who he was, they later recall, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us?”

You might wonder how any such skeptics ever come to faith today
— after all, they can’t meet the risen Christ anymore. Or can they?

Doubters meet Christ still. Skeptics meet Jesus in the compassion of his Body, the Church. They meet the Word in the word of God, the Bible. They meet Christ in his creation. And they meet him one-on-one, spiritually, in his supernatural presence.

Latter-day Thomas-types. Like these:

Anne Lamott

Bestselling author Anne Lamott was an agnostic who began finding herself strangely attracted to church — for the music only. She’d leave before each sermon, steadfast in her determination never to even consider believing in such religious nonsense.

But Christ met her during her grief following an abortion:

I turned off the light. As I laid there, I became aware of someone with me… the feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light… to make sure no one was with me — of course, there wasn’t. In the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus.

…And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brilliant hilarious progressive friends, I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christian…. I turned to the wall and said out loud, “I would rather die.”

I felt him… watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help, because that’s not what I was seeing him with…. This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to… pick it up …to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever.

And one week later, when I went back to church… I felt like something was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to it… and it washed over me.

I began to cry and left, and I raced home and felt the little cat running along at my heels, and I opened the door… and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said “[expletive]! I quit!” I took a long deep breath and said out loud, “All right. You can come in.” So this was the beautiful moment of my conversion. 48

C. S. Lewis

The well-known author of The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis, was an avowed atheist and an Oxford professor at prestigious Magdalen College when he found himself reluctantly converting.

You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. 49

What happened that led to that moment? He met, through his reading and conversations at Oxford, Christians like Lord of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkien. It was his friendship with Tolkien that brought him to Christ. After one late-night conversation with him, Lewis wrote a letter to a friend revealing, “I have just passed on… to definitely believing in Christ, in Christianity.” 50 It changed his whole life and career.

Malcolm Muggeridge

After a long and distinguished career as an atheist, British communist, journalist, and magazine editor Malcolm Muggeridge had a conversion experience.

One day, in a flash, he suddenly saw a bridge reconciling God and Man:

And this bridge, this reconciliation between the black despair of lying bound and gagged in the tiny dungeon of ego, and soaring upwards into the white radiance of God’s universal love — this bridge was the Incarnation, whose truth expresses the desperate need it meets. Because of our physical hunger we know there is bread; because of our spiritual hunger we know there is Christ. 51

Francis Collins

Geneticist Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, began re-examining his own atheism in grad school. His doubts about the historicity of Christ began to fall, one by one, until, he realized he had a choice to make: Did he, personally, believe or not?

He finally converted quite suddenly during a hike on a beautiful fall afternoon. He describes himself now as a “serious Christian — that is, someone who believes in the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection, and who tries to integrate that into daily life.” 52

Brian Welch

Brian “Head” Welch, former guitarist and founding member of the multi-platinum rock band Korn, was baptized in the Jordan River in 2005, at the same Kibbutz Kinneret where our church group was baptized.

Condemned by the Chicago Tribune as being “perverts, psychopaths, and paranoiacs,” Korn was a popular heavy metal group that saw its greatest popularity in the 1990s — and the last place you’d expect to find an enthusiastic convert to Christ.

But Welch told MTV News:

It’s not about religion, I’m saved by grace only. I didn’t
do anything except just ask Jesus. I even prayed a doubting Thomas prayer: “Jesus, show me you’re real.” And he did. 53

A liberal author. An Oxford professor. A leading scientist. A rock star.

All unbelievers. Then the risen Christ showed up.

What about you? Maybe you were raised with Christianity, but recently the spiritual fire’s been burning a little low.

The risen Christ is here, now, with you. Wherever you are, reading this book. Ask for the gift of faith. Ask him to open your eyes to the evidence of his presence and work in the world around you.


Did Jesus live? And did He really say
The burning words that banish mortal fear?
And are they true? Just this is central, here
The Church must stand or fall. It’s Christ we weigh

All else is off the point: The Flood, the Day
Of Eden, or the Virgin Birth — Have done!
The Question is, did God send us the Son
Incarnate crying Love! Love is the Way!

Between the probable and proved there yawns
A gap. Afraid to jump, we stand absurd
Then see behind us sink the ground and, worse
Our very standpoint crumbling. Desperate dawns
Our only Hope: to leap into the Word
That opens up the shuttered universe— Sheldon Vanauken 54


Jot down your own testimony. It may not be as dramatic as those in this chapter. But in one to two pages, write how your own faith developed.