Help my Unbelief!
“I Believe, help my unbelief!” - Mark 9:24
The following article was part of a monthly devotional that was submitted by Pastor Robert Vandoodeward of the Hope Reformed Church in Ontario, Canada. As we recover from the Pandemic, have we recovered spiritually, or are we still damaged and picking up the pieces? Are we turning to God or going back to whatever? Let the Holy Spirit take my summarization of Pastor Bob’s words to help us examine our own spiritual condition.
A panicked and frantic father presents his sick and emotionally tormented son at the Master’s feet. “How long has he been like this?” Jesus asks the boy’s father. The father reveals since he was young. Rolling on the ground, foaming and convulsing while the father’s dialogue continues: “Sometimes the boy attempts to harm himself by throwing himself into water or fire.” The panic grows even more severe. “Jesus, I brought him to your disciples for prayer, but they couldn’t exorcise the demon from him.” Despite what he had heard and been taught about Jesus’ power and authority, the tormenting spirit remained, afflicting the boy even more. What is the father to do?
Pastor Bob opens with a reminder that we all face at some point or another; what do we do when the wheels fall off the bus? “Some Christians face moments of crisis that strike the very core of their faith.” Truly it is a dark night of the soul. The tragedies are too numerous to name, but all of us have experienced such a state. But looking at the words and actions of Christ can help us gain comfort, assurance and hope.
This encounter happens shortly after the Transfiguration which is no accident. Mark wants us to make the connection; to fill in the blanks which the disciples were unable to do. Even after seeing Jesus transformed into his heavenly persona, the disciples were seemingly powerless; they could not assist the boy. In talking with Jesus, the boy’s father asks, “if you can do anything, please have compassion on us and help us!” Can you picture Jesus’ annoyance at their lack of understanding; their failure to apply what he has been teaching them? “Oh faithless generation. How long do I have to be with you?” Addressing the boy’s father, can you picture both willingness and his ability to heal the boy in words: “If you can?! All things are possible for one who believes.” The boy’s father utters those famous words: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” How do we understand such a paradox of words and ideas? Listen to how the father of the Reformed faith, John Calvin put it;
“These two statements may appear to contradict each other, but there is none of us that does not
experience both of them...As our faith is never perfect, it follows that we are partly unbelievers;
but God forgives us, as to reckon us believers on account of a small portion of faith. It is our duty
in the meantime, carefully to shake off the remains of infidelity that adhere to us.
Doubts, thoughts of uncertainty, fear and even cowardice may plague us from time to time. In these times we can turn to the words of Christ, not as chastisement but the promise of Emmanuel - God is with us. What do we do? The answer seems simple: don’t doubt or be paralyzed with guilt. We can cry out to God with the same words as the boy’s father did; “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus is both merciful and mighty. Will you walk with him, trust in him and be his follower? My prayer is for you to grow in the knowledge, love and power of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
Yours in the Strong Name of Jesus Christ,