Belief is something I struggle with, and it shows up on a few different levels. For example, I struggle to believe in God. I’m a Christian, and faith is an important part of my life. But some mornings I wake up and wonder if the whole thing is bullshit. It’s tough to stay committed when my belief wavers.
I also struggle to believe in myself. When I’m trying something new in my work, ministry, or relationships, I get scared that I don’t have what it takes to be successful. Sometimes I feel like I’m struggling with the same stuff that I have been dealing with for years, and I’m not changing or getting better. It’s tough to stay hopeful when my belief wavers.
Sometimes when I read the Bible, I get frustrated because I don’t see a lot of people struggling with their faith the way I feel like I do. So it can be hard for me to connect. I think that is why I love this story in Mark 9 about a man who struggles with his own belief about Jesus. Here is what happened:
When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
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.”
“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
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!”
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up to his feet, and he stood up (Mark 9:14-27).
I love this passage because the boy’s father is honest about his doubt. He is hopeful that Jesus can heal his son, but in his heart of hearts, he isn’t sure that Jesus can do anything. His son has struggled so long. He has experienced too much pain and heartache. There is a longing for something to change, but his past experience hasn’t given him much reason to hope.
I think this is a common struggle, and it is something I certainly deal with it in my own life. It’s interesting how Jesus responds. Jesus responds with the truth about who he is. Jesus is different, and something new is possible, something that the boy’s father hasn’t experienced before. There is hope for healing, growth, and renewal.
I think the boy’s father senses that there is something different about Jesus. There is a desperation in the father, which is a feeling I connect with when I have been struggling with something for a long time. Out of his desperate place, he responds with honesty about where he is at. He believes, but he struggles with unbelief. He has faith, but it is shaken. He wants to follow Jesus with his whole heart, but there’s something holding him back. And he asks Jesus for help.
I’m glad that Jesus doesn’t rebuke the father, or say that you need to have 100% belief in order to receive healing. Instead, Jesus blesses the father and has compassion on him. Jesus meets the father where he is at and heals his son.
I think God works with what we have. If you are struggling today and have just 1% belief, bring that to God. Be honest with him about where you are at, and ask him to help you overcome your unbelief. God isn’t scared of your honesty. He understands the struggle and will meet you right where you are.