I read the Bible a lot. I have my entire adult life. I am happy to say that, frequently, I even learn something from it. “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church!”
I was recently reading the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 9, where Jesus gently upbraids a man for his doubts about Jesus’ authority and power. The man responds, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” I am very grateful for this man’s honesty. With his statement, I feel like I’ve been given permission to admit my own doubts and skepticisms.
At one time, I was too ashamed and guilt-ridden to admit them. I felt like a fake, crossing my fingers when I prayed for God’s guidance or assistance or concern. With this man’s one statement, he affirms for me that no, I’m not a fake; I’m just human, like him. The difference between he and I is that he had the courage to admit it directly to Jesus. I had not.
It is courage, or modesty, or humility – maybe all of these things – that compels him to admit, up front, that his faith is not perfect and rock-solid. He has doubts and reservations. He is not perfect. For certain, he is compelled by love for his sick son, hoping that the new, healing rabbi from Galilee could cure his son. I read a great sense of sacrifice on his part, ready to sacrifice his own standing before the Messiah for the sake of his son.
That is quite a risk: a man ready to risk his own salvation for the sake of his son. We read about people ready to risk their life for another, but what about someone willing to risk their own redemption for another? That is a soul ready to make a great sacrifice, but he still had his doubts about the Messiah.
Still, he says to Jesus that which many of us, I included, would be afraid or embarrassed to say: “I desperately need your help, even though I doubt if you can help me.”
Initially, Jesus probes the man’s mind with the reply, “’If you can?’…”, and the next sentence is more a question than a statement, “Everything is possible for those who believe.” You can feel the question mark that is not there.
When the man responds honestly and openly – “Help my unbelief!” – exposing his humanity, admitting the reality of his heart, Jesus’ lesson with the man is over. Jesus does not say another word, but rather acts. He cures the man’s son. No more lessons; time for healing.
From this passage I learn that Jesus accepts us just as we are, and will help reveal greater self-understanding about ourselves if we are open to it. There is no unacceptable corner of our lives to Jesus. Jesus is there to help us discover them and ready to help us with them.
I find all this most comforting. My shame and guilt about my doubts and skepticism are mistaken. I need not feel that way, and even if I do, the shame and guilt are okay.
I’m good enough. I’m acceptable. I am welcomed. It’s okay to ask for help.
I do believe, help my unbelief.