“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes. The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24 NLT
I imagine he was mentally and emotionally exhausted. For years he searched unsuccessfully for the healing his son needed. He tried everything within his own power, but his son’s suffering continued.
Desperate for something — anything — to work, he turned to Jesus.
We find the account of this man’s story in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. At a very young age, an evil spirit possessed the boy. We aren’t given the details around the years nor the search for healing. But the story starts with the man and his son in the middle of an arguing crowd. He and his son set off to find this Jesus who many were talking about. When they arrived, Jesus was not there. However, some of His disciples were there and it was said that they, too, had the power to heal. So, he asked them to cast out the evil spirit possessing his son. The disciples attempted to do so but failed.
Not long after, Jesus appeared. Frustrated, He said, “You faithless people! How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Mark 9:19)
The father explained the details of his son’s affliction then pleaded with Jesus, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” (Mark 9:22).
It’s a line in the text that tells us a great deal about the man and his unbelief. He said, “if you can.” He wasn’t convinced of Jesus’ power to do all things — including healing his son.
This man’s story of unbelief may resonate with you right now.
It’s been a difficult year. One none of us saw coming nor would have believed possible when we welcomed 2020 into our lives. We all face trials of many kinds — trials that don’t line up with our vision of a just God. Trials that bring us to our knees in pain.
Maybe you once wrestled with or are wrestling with unbelief after facing painful circumstances and you need help with lingering doubts. Or maybe it is the opposite. You’ve always wrestled with unbelief, but now your pain is giving you cause to long for more. More hope. More faith. More Jesus.
How do I overcome my unbelief?
- In order to overcome unbelief, we must be willing to surrender it all. We must surrender the belief that we can do it all on our own. Whether it is our own wisdom, ability, or finances, they all come to an end. Ourselves and our resources are finite.
- In order to overcome unbelief, we must have a burning desire to replace our worldly desires with the things of God. Faith is His gift to us. We simply can’t hold tightly to the things of the world and experience the fullness of faith at the same time.
- In order to overcome unbelief, we must ask God for help.
What Happened to the Father in Our Story?
Jesus answered the boy’s father with the question, “What do you mean, if I can? Anything is possible if a person believes.” (Mark 9:23)
At that moment the boy’s father took those last two steps. By bringing his son to Jesus, he demonstrated the realization that he was limited in his own power. But in the moments as he looked into the eyes of Jesus and heard Him speak the Truth, he knew his belief must come with surrender. Only God could give him the gift of true belief – true faith.
He cried out to Jesus, telling Him he believed, but that he needed help with the remaining unbelief. I imagine the sound of that cry for help and the look Jesus may have seen in his eyes —a humble surrender from a man who finally understood.
Then, Jesus healed the boy.
Belief doesn’t mean God will always answer our prayers just as we want. It means we believe that He can. This story tells us God hears our cries no matter the size of our belief. He wants us to come to Him even when our faith is small and our unbelief big … because He is in the business of transformation. This story tells us He uses those moments when we fall at His feet in surrender to confirm our faith and remind us how great His love and mercy is for us.
None of us are perfect believers, but as we surrender and ask God for help, we make progress toward experiencing the fullness of a faith that knows anything is possible with Christ.
Father, I know my faith is not perfect but I long for more. Lord, help me overcome my unbelief. Give me eyes to see and a spirit of willingness to lay down my pride. I know I and my resources are limited. They are finite. But You, Father, are infinite in Your wisdom, love, mercy, grace, and power. You start where I end. So, today, wherever I may be holding onto my ways and my ideas, I ask You to reveal them to me and break them down so that I can replace them with Your ways and Your ideas. Lord, may today be a turning point as I cry out to you to help my unbelief. May my faith multiply each day. And if I slip into a place of doubt, may You remind me of who You are and what You have done. Then please lift me out of the pit of my own making and set me back on solid ground so that I may continue to run the race with unwavering faith. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.