The book of Mark holds one of the purest, truest, most desperate cries in the whole Bible. Coming from a mortal man, it was the cry of asking for belief he knew he could not achieve on his own. It was a desperate plea for mercy and for faith. And reading it over again, I suddenly realize just how much that man is me.
In the ninth chapter of Mark, we read the story of a boy who has been possessed by an evil spirit. It would throw the boy into the fire or water and try to kill him. The disciples tried to drive out the demon, but were unable to. The boy’s father was brought to Jesus, and He questioned the man about the boy. After explaining it to Jesus, the man says:
“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22b)
Jesus notices one little word that the average reader might overlook. So His response to the father is:
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” (verse 23)
At that moment, the man realized his slight mistake. He realized just what was being asked of him, and he wanted it more than anything in the world.
Immediately, the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!” (verse 24)
How often are we the man here? Personally, I find myself resonating with that cry almost daily.
Maybe one could read over that verse and picture a man simply asking God for help. That’s not what I imagine. In my mind’s eye, I see a man utterly desperate for the faith to move mountains. I see a man who wants nothing more than for his son to be healed, and he knows that God can do it. All he needs to do is believe.
Isn’t that funny, though? So often the world tells us that all we need to do is “believe.” But believe in what? Usually they say we need to believe in ourselves. Here’s a hint: That won’t get you anywhere. Did the man have to believe in himself to heal his son? No, that wouldn’t do any good. He needed to believe in God’s power, not man’s.
I belive in God. I really do. That’s one of the reasons I love this man’s outburst. “I do believe!” he said. “So do I!” I say. But there’s still the unbelief in those areas where I haven’t given everything over to God. There are parts of my life that I hold onto for myself, and that weakens my relationship with God.
I know God is all-powerful. I know that. But it’s so hard to live like it’s true. It’s so hard to give everything over to God, to fully believe that He is in control and that He will work it out in the end. I don’t want to risk being wrong, even if I know that God will never let me down. I believe with all my heart, but I still have unbelief.
How amazing it would be to have the faith of mustard seed. I try every day and fail completely. Somewhere deep down is the doubt and the fear. What’s amazing is that God understands. He knows. He can help.
The second part of the man’s cry is, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” He’s not saying, “Okay, God, I will try to be better at trusting you.” No, he’s saying, “God, I need your help to trust you.”
Every day when I find myself doubting God and wondering if what I believe is true, I find myself shouting the same thing as this man: “Help me overcome my unbelief!” I can see Jesus standing there. His gaze isn’t cold, and His questions are gentle. But suddenly it feels like an interrogation. I realize just how inadequate I am; how small I am. How sinful. God is standing right in front of me and I still can’t let go. I can’t turn it all over to Him. So in front of a perfect and holy God, I beg Him for His help.
“Lord, I believe! I really do believe in you! Help my unbelief! I can’t overcome this on my own! Please, God. Please help me believe in you. Please help me surrender to you.”
Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have no seen and yet have believed.” (John 20: 27-29)
I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!