For the last week or so I’ve been wrestling with the text of Mark 9:24.
This line of Scripture is framed by the story of the demoniac boy whose father bum-rushes Jesus asking for Him to heal his son.
The father had already asked the Disciples to heal the boy but they were of no help.
Jesus asks all the right questions (after calling his 12-piece squad “a faithless generation”) and reminds the father that all things are possible if he could just believe.
The father yells, “I BELIEVE; HELP MY UNBELIEF.”
But what is this tension between belief and unbelief?
How can one say that they believe but there still be remnant of unbelief? Is this not hypocrisy or an antithetical matter?
All week long I’ve been thinking, “What does it mean to believe but still have remnants of doubt present?”
I know what that is like, I think.
I mean, you have faith in God, in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. You can recite Scripture that supports your belief for healing, for restoration, for justice, for love. You have an understanding of biblical and spiritual principles that support your faith. You can articulate to others what you believe, why you believe it, and why you expect God to deliver on God’s promises any day now.
But sometimes, every once in a while, our faith gets weak.
We have thoughts in our mind that maybe God hasn’t heard our incessant, relentless petitions for deliverance. For change. For justice.
Maybe God hasn’t read our tear-stained, ink smeared journals or hushed arguments behind closed doors so the kids don’t hear us.
Maybe God doesn’t feel the painful longing that sits on our chest like a weight, slowly forcing the air out of our faith-filled lungs.
Maybe God has forgotten that we are human and that the emotional toll it takes to deal with our issues and heartache day after day is chipping away at our “iron-clad” faith.
Some of us have been dealing with the same issue for years, just like this father had been. How long had his son been stricken with a demon? His entire life. How many years, days, hours, minutes, and seconds had this father watched his faith go seemingly unheard by God?
So this father meets Jesus and Jesus is all like, “You can have deliverance for your son if you just believe…” and this father cries out “I BELIEVE!”[insert imaginary expletive here]
It’s important to note that the original Greek for “cries out” means he’s speaking with a loud voice — but also implies that he’s doing it vehemently, so much so that it’s almost incoherent.
I imagine his, “I BELIEVE” is really saying:
I’ve done the work; I’ve gone to church; I’ve read my bible; I’ve been kind to people; I’ve supported my family; I’ve made the sacrifices; I’ve put the Word of God on my lips and in my heart; I’ve written the Scripture on a sticky note and plastered it on my bathroom mirror as a reminder; Look, I even have Romans 8:28 tattooed on my foot; I quit my job to follow you; I’ve proven out my faith in ways I never expected, God…
WHATEVER IS LEFT, HELP THE REST OF ME BELIEVE, TOO.
And this is where we are.
Asking for God to help the rest of us to catch up, to believe a little more.
I believe — my spiritual faith is present, but my soul, emotions, heart, and mind is having difficulty believing. Help my unbelief.
There are certain areas of my life that I’ve been believing in for a long time. Like, almost a decade. I’m not exaggerating.
And every year that goes by I’m like, “Okay, Lord, I’m still believing. I still have this desire. I still believe that this is what you want for me because the desire has not left me. I know you want this for my life. I know you want me to be whole in this particular area. I know it. I believe; but I’m tired of waiting. I’m feeling weak. I’m o v e r this.”
I believe — help my unbelief.
As Scripture tells us, Jesus calls out the demon and the boy convulses as he cries out in pain.
It was so ugly and violent, every one thought the boy was dead. The text says “after crying out and convulsing him terribly…the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.'”
How terrible this must have felt for this father — for us — that when Jesus finally delivers the boy — us — that our situations look dead.
It looks like all that we had been believing God for actually came to a head — only to die an ugly death in front of us. We get so close to having our prayers answered and BOOM: it looks like what was possible to believe is now seemingly impossible.
“But Jesus took his hand, lifted him up, and he arose.”
Sometimes we need a little help believing, even when we think we’ve got this faith thing down pat.
Sometimes we’ll get so close to actualizing our dreams, hopes, and prayers when the rug will get snatched from up under us. Things will look dark, dismal, forever broken, and impossible to put back together. People will see the brokenness and declare that dream dead.
But Jesus will do the impossible and give life to that very thing. He will remind us that even in our humanness that more is possible. That restoration is possible. That healing is possible.
And, I think Jesus reminds us that even with all the right “faith tools” that we can feel our faith waning. And that’s okay. It’s okay to feel sad, disappointed, confused, enraged, worn out and disenchanted because our faith is being challenged.
It’s really is okay.
It is the prayer of grace, “help my unbelief” that changed the course for this father.
And it’s gonna change the course of our lives, too.
Today we pray for God to help our unbelief in the areas in which we think we have the most faith.
Today we pray for God to remind us of the fragility that our human capacity to have marathon-levels of faith is often tested by the realities of life.
Today we pray that when God gives us glimpses of an answered prayer that we won’t be shaken went it appears as if that promise has died; we can rest assured that God will raise it up to live — just as Jesus promised.
On the Chase,