by Faith Morin

Several times over the past two weeks I’ve been reminded of Mark 9:14-29, where Jesus heals the boy with the unclean spirit. There is much to digest in those 15 verses, but perhaps what has always moved me the most is the fathers cry:

“But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

This is so often how I feel. I work hard at gathering wisdom, knowledge, and skill only to realize how pitiful my accumulation really is. I see my limitations, weaknesses, and powerlessness. I want to believe…I want it desperately so…but often my faith seems like a fragile shell of what it ought.  

I love that the father here is both full of hope and doubt. You can sense the agony and angst of his plea,  that if anything can be done, for it to be so. This father is honest with Jesus. He doesn’t pretend, he doesn’t flatter…he’s real. “But if you can…”  I’m always in awe of Jesus’ response because the father does not come across as a man of great faith. He’s clearly questioning Jesus’ ability to do anything at all. He wants it to be possible, but he doesn’t know.

And then Jesus says, “All things are possible for one who believes.” (What? This guy believes???) The father realizes, “I believe, but help me because I don’t believe enough” (paraphrase). He knows he can’t create his own faith. He’s never seen this before. He’s tried all he knows, all that his faith was in previously, and it didn’t work. He wants to believe but can’t manufacture it…and doesn’t even try. Instead, he admits his unbelief and asks the only one who can, to help.    

I am this father. I want to believe, but I still don’t…not fully. By the time I come to Jesus I’m spent and desperate. I’ve exhausted my resources and wonder if change is even possible. I need a savior and I need him to move, but unlike this father I far too often wrestle with Jesus. I want to bargain and, typically, I’m consumed with the fear of “if he doesn’t.”

See, I am not able to push my Savior to act when I hope; I can’t manipulate or bend His will. I know that and worry that he won’t come through. I want  greater faith, but I don’t confess my lack or ask for more. Instead, I usually spend more time trying to muster it up or cover the fact that I don’t really believe in the first place. Ugly stuff.

Today I’m thankful for this reminder {I always need reminders}. Jesus knows. He sees my heart, my unbelief, my self-righteousness, my sin far clearer than I do. He knows I can’t give myself more faith to believe. It’s part of why he’s showing me a lack to begin with, so that I might first go to him.

Oh that the desperate words of this father, “I believe, help my unbelief” might be the constant cry of my heart.