"Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" - Mark 9:24 (NET)
A short, but powerful verse. It speaks to the human experience of faith and doubt. It recounts the story of a man who approached Jesus seeking healing for his possessed son. What wouldn't a father do to try and help their son?
This father attempted to bring his son to Jesus. He did so because he knew that Jesus was his son's only hope. Mark tells us in Mark 9:21 that the son had been like that, "from childhood." The father had seen his son, "foaming at the mouth," (v20) and seen the evil spirt throw his previous boy "into fire or water to destroy him." (v22) Imagine the misery of the father. Seeing his son suffering, but not able to do anything to bring relief to him.
So one day he hears that Jesus has helped others like his son. Without a second thought he grabs his son and they head out to find Jesus.
After a failed attempt by the disciples to cure this boy, Jesus showed up on the scene, rebukes the disciples and engaged the father in conversation.
The father timidly asks Jesus to have compassion on His and says, "...if you are able to do anything..." Jesus questions the man's faith. I believe what Jesus was getting at was something like this, "Do you believe or don't you?" "Why did you bring your son to me if you don't think I am able to do something?"
The father's response is an honest plea of the heart. It is something that all of us can resonate with, "Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" In this one expression the father shares that while he has some belief, there are lingering doubts.
This verse has become a source of comfort and inspiration for many people who struggle with doubts and uncertainties in their faith. It reminds us that it's okay to have doubts, and that even those who believe can still have moments of uncertainty. It also highlights the importance of seeking help and guidance to overcome those doubts and strengthen one's faith.
At its core, Mark 9:24 speaks to the complexity of the human experience. We are all subject to doubts and uncertainties, whether it be in our personal beliefs or in the broader world around us. But it's important to remember that these doubts do not define us. Rather, they are simply a part of our journey as we seek to grow and learn.
One example of someone who embodied the spirit of Mark 9:24 is the writer and theologian C.S. Lewis. Lewis is known for his powerful and insightful writings on Christianity, but he too struggled with doubts and uncertainties in his faith. In his book, "Surprised by Joy," Lewis recounts his own journey from atheism to Christianity, and the doubts and uncertainties he faced along the way.
If we are being honest with ourselves, we have all experienced that. We all have doubts built into our faith. We have a desire to trust more, but like Paul, we don't always do what we know we should;
15 "For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want—instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me." Romans 7:15-20 (NET)
But despite these challenges, Lewis remained committed to seeking the truth and growing in his faith. He recognized that doubts and uncertainties were a natural part of the process, and that seeking help and guidance from others was key to overcoming them.
In many ways, Mark 9:24 speaks to the broader idea of grace and forgiveness in Christianity. It reminds us that we are all imperfect, and that we will inevitably make mistakes and have doubts along the way. But through the grace and guidance of God, we can overcome those challenges and continue to grow in our faith.
May you grow day by day in your certainly that, "all things are possible for the one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)