“I believe, help my unbelief” is a plea of desperation and agony that a father makes to Jesus on behalf of his possessed son in Mark 9. Evidently the father had brought the son to the disciples, but the disciples failed to heal him. The father then petitioned Jesus to intervene. Jesus responds that all things are possible for those who believe (Mark 9:23).
Belief is central in this passage, as well as our life of faith. The father in this story is a despondent, inconsolable man who desires to see his son made whole once again. He seems to be at his wits end, scrambling to find a solution that would rid his son of these unclean spirits. After enduring this hardship for years, witnessing his son in unspeakable anguish, uncertain of what might come, Jesus tells him the key his son’s deliverance is belief. In a flurry of emotions, the father cries out, “I believe, help my unbelief!”
This gut wrenching prayer appears contradictory, but when you are hopeless and running out of time, thoughts of contradicting yourself are minuscule in light of experiencing the resolution for which you have longed.
Suffering is inevitable. Hardship is essentially promised to believers in the NT. We are fallen people living in a fallen world. Sin and weakness seem to be ever present, all around us. We are inundated and overwhelmed with problems that don’t seem to have easy or obvious solutions. Sometimes the only solution is to never have created the problem at all.
But the problem is there, and it is big and complex and layered and crippling and makes our heart ache so badly it hollows us out. The most frustrating difficulties are the ones we would do anything to fix, but we just sit there with our head in our hands because we can’t think of anything we are actually able to do to bring an end to the madness.
Intellectually, I believe that all things are possible with God. Emotionally, sometimes, I’m not there yet. When I consider my life, too often fear grips me and uncertainty paralyzes me. When I look around at the world in which we live, poverty frustrates me, injustice infuriates me, exploitation of children disgusts me, and the subjugation of women makes my blood boil. It is all overwhelming, and while I do believe, one day (oh the glorious day), these things too shall be made right, in the moment, I have no answers but only nitty-gritty prayers.
Prayers like, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”