A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:17-18; 21-24
Maybe it’s just something I tell myself to get over my own cynicism and distrust in life, but I think I’m a person who is pre-disposed to doubt.
I’ve doubted a lot of stuff in life. It comes out in the small stuff (“Did I turn the lights off before I left the house this morning? Did I remember to shut the garage door?”) to the big stuff (“Is this Jesus thing really true?”). When I was 16, I went through a period in my life that led me to doubt and wrestle with much of what I believed. It was exceedingly difficult and quite stressful. But I’m very thankful for that time in my life because I believe that it steered me toward a deeper faith even though it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Many times, the declaration of “I believe; help my unbelief!” has been my cry to Jesus as well. It seems that when I face major decisions in my life that I always end up here… I am trusting God for the future, but I still have side of me that doesn’t. Even a few Sundays ago when we asked people to make the spontaneous decision to be baptized in our Easter services, this was in full force. I truly believed that God was going to do something, but my heart and mind were wracked with doubts and “what if’s” and fears about whether people would really do this or not.
What’s encouraging to me, though, is that God gets it. And I think it’s this kind of faith that he chooses, uses, and even rewards.
Take this story for instance. Despite the fact that the man here is far from the strong bastion of faith we would expect from someone in the Bible, this narrative ends with his son being healed. The Bible is actually full of people who were much like this man: doubting yet believing, trusting while struggling. That’s part of the reason why I love reading it so much.
Ultimately, I think what God is searching for in our faith lives isn’t perfect confidence; it’s enough trust to move ahead, even when we’re not sure. As James chapter 2 draws out, our faith isn’t something we hold internally, but something we demonstrate time and time again by the kinds of lives that we live. I certainly wish and hope most of the time for clarity and conviction, but in reality, I think the real growth happens many times in our lives when we don’t have everything perfectly figured out but choose to trust God anyway. It’s in those moments that our faith grows and stretches and God speaks into our lives in the most powerful ways.
So today, whatever the situation might be where you’re both trusting and doubting or believing and struggling, I pray that you’ll yield to God and take the next step anyway. I truly believe it’s that kind of human, genuine faith God rewards and works with the most.