Lord, I Believe, Help My Unbelief

Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able! — All things can be done for the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’    (Mark 9:23-24)

The man who cried, “I believe; help my unbelief,” has much to say to us. He didn’t gloss over his struggles or pretend to have total conviction. He just told the truth—he both believed, and he didn’t.

Many people in scripture struggled with their faith. Abraham questioned if God had forgotten him; Sarah laughed at God; Moses tried to duck God’s mission; Joshua felt overwhelmed; Jeremiah wanted to quit; Jonah tried to run away; Timothy wanted to bail; and Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

The biblical faith involves doubts, asks questions, wrestles with God. Without accepting our struggles, doubts, and questions, our faith becomes a commodity, not a gift; a possession, not a process; a destination, not a journey.

Jesus said, “Follow me.” Just as the first disciples sometimes wondered whether following Jesus made sense, we can also wonder. Our struggles don’t convey a lack of faith; our struggles come because it’s sometimes hard to discern how God’s working in our lives. Exactitude and certitude aren’t the goals of faith; in fact, they’re the opposites of faith. We need to hold onto our faith so that our doubts don’t make us cynical or hopeless. We need to admit our doubts so that our faith doesn’t become smug or self-righteous.

I recognize the man who asks Jesus for help with his struggles. He’s desperate for Jesus to exorcize the demons from his son. For years the father must have prayed for his son to have a normal life. He must have traveled to numerous exorcists and healers. He had heard about Jesus having miraculous powers. He wondered if Jesus could finally be the one to free his son. Although he wanted to have great hope, he must have also wanted to cushion himself from one more disappointment. He said, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

I encourage us to come to Jesus just like this father. Jesus wants our faith, our doubts, our faith mingled with our doubts. He wants all that we have, and all that we sometimes don’t.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you, like the father, ever cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief”? If so, when?
  1. What have been the times, occasions, losses, or challenges, which shook your faith, or undermined your convictions?
  1. If you’re right now struggling with your faith, I pray that you aren’t scolding or berating yourself. Would you be willing to consider that Jesus is with you even if you don’t see it, feel it, or know it?

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