“I Believe, help thou my unbelief.” That statement by a troubled father in Mark 9:24, pleading with Jesus for the healing of his son, speaks to me. Often our faith is weak, inadequate, not quite as strong as we think it ought to be, and we despair. This man was not ashamed to admit that his faith was weak, and asked Jesus to “help” his unbelief. It’s like he was saying, “Lord, I need you. My son needs you. I want to believe you can heal him, but my faith is weak. Help me. Help my weak faith, please.”
Here are some ways we can approach the subject of faith and doubt.
1. The importance of faith.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” – (John 20:29). Here Jesus reminds Thomas (and all of us) that believing trumps even seeing. God wants us to believe Him. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2. Faith’s object
Another way of looking at this subject can be stated like this: the amount of our faith vs. the object of our faith. Great faith in a rotting bridge won’t keep you safe, but even a weak faith in a strong bridge will get you across. Jesus spoke of faith like a grain of mustard seed (the smallest of the grains in Biblical times) as being able to move mountains. So putting our faith in God – even though said faith isn’t perfect – is much better than a strong faith (which may be no more than presumption or wishful thinking) in a wholly inadequate object. Jesus said, “have faith in God.”
3. Faith and Feeling
When you are a new Christian, God will often give you confirming emotions so you’ll know he’s there and he cares. But as you grow in faith, God will wean you from relying on emotions that help you believe he is present and at work in your life.
God’s omnipresence and the manifestation of his presence are two different things. One is a fact; the other is often a feeling. God is always present, even when you are unaware of him, and his presence is too profound to be measured by mere emotion.
Yes, he wants you to sense his presence—but he’d rather have you trust in his presence than feel his presence. Faith, not feelings, pleases God.
Your faith will stretch the most when life falls apart and God is nowhere to be found. This happened to Job. On a single day he lost everything—his family, his business, his health, and everything he owned. And, most discouragingly, God said nothing to Job for 37 chapters!
How do you praise God when you don’t understand what’s happening in your life and God is silent? How do you stay connected to him in a crisis without communication? How do you keep your eyes on Jesus when they’re full of tears? You do what Job did: “Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised’” (Job 1:20-21 NIV).
Tell God exactly how you feel. Pour out your heart to God. Unload every emotion you’re feeling. Job did this when he said, “I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak” (Job 7:11 GNT).
He cried out when God seemed distant: “Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (Job 29:4 NIV).
God can handle your doubt, anger, fear, grief, confusion, and questions. You can take everything to him in prayer.
4. Who runs our train?
Campus Crusade for Christ, now known as CRU uses the illustration of a train to show the difference between fact, faith, and feeling: The engine is the fact, the coal car that fuels it is faith, and the caboose is feeling. The train runs with or without the caboose. Sometimes the feelings just aren’t there. It is faith in God’s Word that enables our train (our Christian life) to run.
5. Faith and Doubt vs. Faith and Unbelief
I read recently some thoughts that I found helpful, that it’s okay to have doubts; in fact, it’s normal, and part of our seeking truth and certainty. Unbelief, on the other hand, is more settled, more convinced, and tends to reject faith. Doubt is still striving; unbelief has its mind made up. I tend to think the father in Mark 9: 17-27 was a doubter, not an unbelieving rejecter. His response to Jesus would surely suggest that.
I have found this testimony song by Bill and Gloria Gaither from many decades ago to be helpful and encouraging.
"I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief" I believe; help Thou my unbelief I take the finite risk Of trusting like a child I believe; help Thou my unbelief I walk into the unknown Trusting all the while I long so much to feel the warmth That others seem to know But should I never feel a thing I claim Him even so I believe; help Thou my unbelief I walk into the unknown Trusting all the while I walk into the unknown Trusting ...
It is faith that saves, seals, and strengthens. Faith simply believes God; takes God at His word. The Word of God is the secure object of our faith. “Help my unbelief, Lord, whenever I’m prone to doubt.” “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him, how I’ve proved him, o’er and o’er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, Oh, for grace to trust him more.”