Read: Mark 9:17-29
Evil is most tangible to us in the pain, darkness, and brokenness of our own lives. These are also the parts of our lives that most often cause us to hit our own proverbial panic button, and that is why we need this story. It’s about more than Jesus healing a boy with an evil spirit and seizures. It’s a story of unbelief and faith.
Jesus’ rebuke of the father wasn’t shaming, but rather a call for him to reframe his thinking. The father had some faith. It was enough to cause him to seek help in Jesus’ miraculous power; but Jesus was calling him to a bigger, stronger faith that rooted itself in the God who makes all things possible. The father’s response to Jesus was honest. Mark 9:24 says, “I believe; help my unbelief.” It’s a great prayer. The father owned where he was and at the same time he asked Jesus to form a heart in him that believed with more strength and resolve.
The father wasn’t the only person wrestling with unbelief in this story. The disciples had been unable to heal the boy, and when they asked Jesus later why they couldn’t do it, Jesus told them that only prayer could accomplish something so great (Mark 9:29). While at first it may be tempting to over-spiritualize his response, we have to stop think. Have we ever forgotten to pray in the midst of a difficult and chaotic season of life? We so often go into “fix-it” mode, which is what the disciples had done. They were trying and trying, and nothing worked. But Jesus reminded them that without prayer, without first calling to mind the power and character of God, their faith couldn’t accomplish anything. Like the father of the boy, the disciples needed to be reminded that faith grows when it’s rooted in God himself.
When we are tempted to panic and try to fix things ourselves, we can remember this story. We’re not alone, and Jesus offers us a better way. We can come to him in our tired unbelief and pray for him to help us cultivate a faith that is anchored in him.
How do you struggle with unbelief? In what ways is your faith small?
Do you pray to Jesus with an honest ownership of what you’re feeling and dealing with?
Do you trust his power and ability to help you and form a stronger faith inside of you?