“‘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!”
Jesus said. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
This story is one that has comforted me through the years in my own faith walk with God. It relays the outcry of a father who is in a desperate situation for his son’s healing and wellbeing. In the midst of the crisis, the dad makes a statement that has two seemingly opposing claims. But as we look further into them, they could be more closely related than one would think.
The first claim, “I do believe” is one of complete confidence and trust in Jesus. It’s a confession of trust in the Son of God who was present in that moment with the man and his son. It doesn’t guarantee the exact outcome the father is looking for his son, but it claims that Jesus is the focal point of trust for the love and care of the boy. This claim is one that encourages us in our daily lives as we pray for situations that overwhelm us. Even without knowing the outcome of events, we can still be people who confess that Christ is present and active in this world and that he is the anchor of our faith.
The second claim, “Help me overcome my unbelief!”, at first glance, seems like the father is contradicting what he just said about believing in Jesus. But this is not a contradiction as much as it is a realistic confession of the human state. It’s the admission of someone who is being vulnerable and transparent with God in the midst of an uncertainty in life. He is admitting that Jesus is not only the anchor of his faith, but also the very One who has the power to help hold his faith when it is struggling and slipping away. This can help us when we feel like our faith is failing or even non-existent. It can encourage us to remember like the man in this story that even though we are limited, finite and temporal; and even though when we feel exhausted, doubtful and afraid, God is the one who perfectly understands our unbelief and holds our faith for us.
Think about this for a minute. If God holds the heavens, the world and our lives in his hands, why wouldn’t he also be the one to hold your belief for you when you have nothing left in the faith “tank”? Why wouldn’t God also hear you with compassion when you share how your trust is weak and failing in moments that are difficult? Why wouldn’t the savior Jesus come to our rescue when our belief in him is part of this broken world that also needs to be restored and redeemed?
What if, “We do believe! Help us overcome our unbelief!” became the cry of the Church? The body of Christ, the community of expectant believers is called to live a life of the “now and not yet” of the work of God from the cross and the empty grave. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have already been given the victory and the hope of salvation and can say with confidence, “We do believe!”. But because the great resurrection, the day of the redemption of all things and the healing of the nations hasn’t yet come, we still look at our world in its brokenness, sin, injustice, violence and death and we cry out, “Help us overcome our unbelief!” Instead of being ashamed of this phrase, maybe we can own it with confidence as we go about the world living out the gospel of Jesus. It may help us to be more real and in touch with the way of Jesus in our everyday life. It may help us remember that we are not far away from God at all. It may help us be inspired to continue serving others in the name of Jesus. It may help us continue fighting for the healing and restoration of human lives. It may help us be more humble and real in our conversations with people who don’t claim faith in Jesus. It may simply free some of us to say what we’ve been feeling our whole lives.
As you go your way today, remember that your belief is to be anchored in Jesus, the one who is the same yesterday, today and forever. And remember that your “unbelief” is also something that Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, holds for you when you can’t anymore. One day, we will completely overcome our unbelief. Until that day, I rest in the trust that Jesus has enough faith for all of us. This is good news for me and I hope it is for you.
Love in Christ,