Mark 9:24 – I believe, help my unbelief.
I coach people in making wise choices. The teaching is grounded in referenced scriptures and incorporates the latest research in neuroscience to understand the question asked by the apostle Paul in Romans 7: 21-25.
Paul writes, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ, our Lord!
I am passionate about the material that has helped hundreds better understand why they struggle the same way Paul did more than 2,000 years ago. Yet, understanding how things became broken must always take a back seat to personal prayer.
In Mark 9, a man is face to face with Jesus discussing a demon who has made his son mute, causes him to foam at the mouth, throws him in the fire and water to destroy him. Now, I have had my share of issues while raising my children, but demonic possession has not been one of them. But there have been many times I have prayed while lacking confidence that God would answer my prayer. We all have those moments of doubt.
Of my five children, two of them had a dislike for each other so strong that I was seriously worried about one of them causing physical harm to the other in one of their feuds. As a single mother, I prayed that God would end their battle and give them love and respect toward each other. The more serious their arguments and fighting got, the less confident I was in my prayers. Then came a time when I talked to God about it rather than pray that he take it away. I had started journaling and was processing my fears with God. It was during those conversations, and many others like it, where God began showing me how my motivation was wrong.
I came from an abusive home and had a personal vow that my family would be different. Those kinds of vows can become idols that we continue to feed. God showed me that my fear was based more on my need to succeed as a mom than it was about my children getting along. It was a painful lesson, and I had to start the work of letting my children off the hook for my well-being.
I’ll dip into my lessons a little here. Our belief systems develop from life experiences. The stronger the emotional attachment to experience, the stronger the belief system surrounding it becomes. I had developed a belief system that I alone had to overcome generations of abuse by breaking the chains for my children. The pressure I put on myself was intense, and in turn, I placed that pressure on my kids.
While it is essential to know where that belief system came from, it is even more important to remember that God’s heart is more inclined to change the patterns of my family than I am. And, He is more capable. Like me, the father in Mark 9 is facing a situation that feels bigger than him, and he has one more hope that Jesus can heal his son.
Jesus asks the father how long this has been happening to his son. The father says since childhood. Jesus did not need to know the answer to this to heal the son. So, why did he ask it? I think he wanted the father to remember how long this trial had gone on and how severe it had been. The father describes the situation and pleads with Jesus saying, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus challenges the father saying, “If you can, all things are possible for one who believes.” The father responds with an honest heart saying, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus could have healed the boy without the conversation, but Jesus never wastes a miracle. God is always looking for those moments to get to a deeper issue in our hearts.
The father did not lack faith. It took faith to bring his son to Jesus. It took faith to admit that he lacked enough faith. But the answer seemed so huge and too good to be true. But the father didn’t know Jesus. Like him, I couldn’t see a time when my two children would move beyond their hatred toward each other. Also, like the father in Mark 9, I had a deeper issue that Jesus wanted to root out in my heart.
I had to begin the process of realigning my beliefs to the word of God. So often, the stories in the bible can seem too ordinary when we’ve read them time and again. We forget the significance. We forget the miracle. We forget the power of God and begin looking at the issue we face. We apply what we’ve learned from past experiences to our new situations. But there are simply times when what we know just isn’t working. That was the case for the disciples caught in the middle of this situation.
God could have averted my children’s feud. But instead, He used it to turn my eyes upward again. I had gotten lost in my vow. I had become enslaved to my need to be the perfect mom. But God’s compassion reminded me in a gentle and loving way that I can never be the perfect mom. He reminded me that I needed him.
After showing compassion on the father and his son, Jesus explains to the confused disciples that this demon can only be cast out by prayer. There are times when we become confident in our faith, and we can do wonders. I have had the privilege of coaching many people as they overcome barriers. But it is easy to become confident in the process and forget the one who makes the process work.
Warren Wiersbe said, of Mark 9, “Jesus had already given them the authority to cast out demons (Mark 3:14-15), but “The authority that Jesus had given them was effective only if exercised by faith, but faith must be cultivated through spiritual discipline and devotion.” (Wiersbe)
Like the son in Mark 9, my children have since been delivered from their hatred of each other and couldn’t be closer. I am grateful to God for listening to my cries. But I am more thankful that God took the time to draw me closer to him to increase my faith and dependence.
Regarding his struggle between old ways and new ways, Paul asks the question, “Who will rescue me from this body?” He answers with, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ, our Lord!” If you are trapped with doubt, spend time talking to God about your fears. He is faithful to show you truths more deep-rooted than the answers you seek.