Liz Curtis Higgs
"Can God Handle Our Doubts?"
"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
Mark 9:24b (NIV)
If you’ve ever whispered: "I’m not sure what I believe, Lord. I just don’t have enough faith," then be encouraged. A story in Mark 9 shows us what God can do when we wrestle with doubt.
First, we meet a desperate father, whose son was possessed by a demon that threw the boy to the ground, leaving him rigid and foaming at the mouth. Jesus’ disciples tried to drive out the evil spirit, but failed.
When the Lord arrived and learned what happened, He didn’t mince words. "You unbelieving generation … how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" (Mark 9:19, NIV). He rightly called them, "You faithless people!" (Mark 9:19a, NLT), because faith was the missing element.
Jesus wasn’t unhappy with His disciples. Rather, He was pointing out the spiritual state of the crowds who followed Him but hadn’t placed their trust in Him. Because of their unbelief, demons roamed the land. Because of their lack of faith, a young boy lay stiff on the ground. Because they doubted God’s power, His people couldn’t call upon it.
Beloved, we needn’t wonder why there is so much evil and suffering in the world when people who claim to know God have stopped believing in His power. Deep down, they don’t think He can triumph over evil. They aren’t convinced He can really fix things. They may call Him the great I AM, yet struggle to believe it.
Listen to this boy’s father, whose words reflect that kind of uncertainty: "But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us" (Mark 9:22b, NIV).
"If?" Clearly this man didn’t know who he was talking to, because Jesus can do anything! Still, we can be every bit as doubtful as this needy father. We place our requests before God, then take them right back, fretting over how we’re going to solve our problem, not convinced God can really do anything about it.
The Lord repeated this man’s words back to him--not to mock him but to underline the father’s misplaced doubt. "‘If you can’? said Jesus" (Mark 9:23a, NIV). It’s a gentle but firm reprimand as well as a loving reminder of His power.
Then comes the good news we’ve been waiting for, the response to his question, "Can you help me, Lord?" The answer is "Yes, yes, yes!" Jesus told the man, "Everything is possible for one who believes" (Mark 9:23b, NIV).
A man who thought nothing could be done, yet pleaded for something to be done, just learned all things can be done.
I love what happened next. "Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, …" (Mark 9:24a, NIV). This father didn’t think at length about the Lord’s words. No, he responded instantly. We can almost feel the tightness in his chest, the stinging sensation in his nose, as he tried to keep from crying. But he had to speak, had to blurt out the truth.
"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24b).
There it is: his confession of faith. And, in the same breath, his admission of doubt. What an example for all of us! He embraced the unbelief inside him--his fear, his uncertainty, his trust issues--and gave it all to Jesus, saying, "I do have faith! Please help me to have even more" (Mark 9:24b, CEV).
For those of us who believe in God, worship God, and yet have times when we doubt, here is proof that we can admit our lack of faith to God and ask for His help.
He knows how to ease our suspicions and fears, our misgivings and apprehensions. He can handle our cynicism, our incredulity. He understands our doubts.
However wobbly our faith may be at times, our trustworthy God never changes. He hears and answers when we cry out, "Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior" (Psalm 38:22, NIV).
Heavenly Father, we want to believe. Help us with our unbelief. Remind us Who You are. Remind us You can do anything. Keep our eyes on Your Word and our lives in Your hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Luke 24:38-39a, "He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see.’" (NIV)
Mark 5:36b, "Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’" (NIV)