Do you know what it means to have unbelieving belief? Well, let me offer you my take on it by sharing a story with you. A story about a heart and mind that were at odds with each other at a critical time.
You are a parent; you have a little boy. And you love that little boy with all of your heart and want nothing but the best for him. But he has a disability.
He has violent seizures that make you fear for his safety. He has fallen into fires and into water many times. You fear for his life, and rightfully so! Additionally, your son cannot speak, so while you long to hear him say he loves you… You have to settle for how his eyes say it.
Your life seems like a nightmare. Like a horror movie that you are stuck watching from the outside. Only this horror movie is happening to you and you have no control. No hope. Every doctor you bring him to cannot seem to rid your son of what ails him. You pray daily for healing, but you fear in your heart that it will never come…
This is my favorite part of the story! Perhaps you’ve heard of it. If not, join me in Mark chapter 9:14-29. We’ll pick up at my favorite part, the part where Jesus comes in in verse 21.
You see, the story above is the story of this father. He loved his son, and he feared for his life. But this poor father couldn’t seem to find anyone who could help his son. Even the disciples could not cast out the demon that was holding this sweet boy captive!
But. God. (I love those two words. You just know something amazing is going to happen when those two words are in the equation.) Our wonderful savior Jesus… Here He comes. The boy has just been thrown into a violent seizure because the demon saw Jesus and knew he was in deep trouble.
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.”
Wait, what? Did that guy just say “if“?! Sometimes when I read this part I just feel my jaw drop. This guy has NO CLUE who he’s talking to does he? See, it’s easy for me to do that here because I know how the story ends. I don’t have to doubt what the outcome will be, because I have seven more verses that tell me what happens. I have belief in Jesus here, because I know how He is going to answer this father’s desperate plea for help.
But what about in my own life? What about when my children are in danger? What about when my health is failing? What about when my bank account doesn’t seem to understand that I have more bills to pay than it has money in it?
Do I have an unshakable belief then? Do I trust God with what I don’t know? Am I really sitting there excitedly anticipating His response to my plea like I do when I read this story? Hmm… Let’s continue in verse 23.
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boys father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Ok, so I soooo get where this father is coming from. Do you hear the desperation? Do you see the exhaustion? Doesn’t your heart just break for this poor dad? I mean, he has been searching and traveling and trying everything that he can to heal his son. He just wants his little boy safe! He wants his son to be able to play, have fun, rough house, and be healthy.
Our Past Does Not Dictate Our Future
Did you catch that this father immediately exclaimed? Other versions say “instantly cried out” (NLT), “crying in desperation” (The Voice). He barely even let our Savior finish what He was saying before he cried out for help. His heart desperately wanted to believe, but his mind was riddled with doubts from the many failed attempts that came before. All of those other times served as “evidence” in his mind that this time would be no different.
Can you relate to him? I sure can… My past constantly tries to tell me how my future will go. Because of my past failures I am undoubtedly going to fail now is what my past says. Because I was unwanted so many times before, I, of course, am going to be unwanted now. All of the records that have been kept of my past failures obviously mean that I can’t change and get better.
No. Hope. Right?…
Well, let’s pick up on our story then to see. Jesus has just commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and that spirit definitely put up a fight when he was being forced out. We’re in the middle of verse 26 here: “The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead.'” Hope certainly seemed gone at that point, huh? No point in clinging to the belief that this story could have a happy ending.
But, here come two of my favorite words. The game changers. In verse 27, “But Jesus”. When all hope is gone. When you are lost with no reason to expect you will ever be found. That’s when God steps in. “But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up,”.
The Weapon to Defeat Unbelief
Hallelujah! That father sure did believe now. His son had finally been freed from that demon that haunted him since childhood. His heart and his mind finally were able to overcome the unbelief that gripped him by embracing belief, even if it had to come from the Spirit because in his flesh he couldn’t fully believe.
But, there were still a few people that couldn’t quite figure out what happened that day, or why it happened the way it did. Doubts and uncertainty plagued the minds of Jesus’ disciples. Why couldn’t they drive out that spirit? They had done it before… What changed this time?
Verse 29 answers that question, “[Jesus] replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer.'” Sometimes our doubts, our unbelief, and the demons that plague us seem impossible. We’ve overcome things like these before.
With God we defeat our depression, but our anxiety still has a firm grip on us.
We’ve learned through the Spirit’s direction how to handle our money well, even though we used to drown ourselves in debts and overdraft fees.
We have belief that we can overcome anything with Jesus. All things are possible with God. We know that! We believe that… Don’t we?
“Only by prayer.” That’s what Jesus says. Prayer is the key. God’s shoulders are big. They are strong. They can handle anything you have to say. They can handle your doubts, your fears, your anger, your frustration… They can handle the enormity of your situations because God is soooo much bigger. So if you, like the dad in our story, are struggling with a lack of belief that you desperately want to rid from your life. Pray. Ask God. He’s got you covered. No prayer is too big or too small. He cares about it all.