This was the verse that stood out to me in my personal devotions, and ultimately became the lesson I taught at the Youth Bible Study on Wednesday.
This story in Mark that tells of Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy contains a lot of characters who are struggling with unbelief, but the father of the boy is my favorite. I can relate to him.
Not because I have a demon-possessed child, but because sometimes I also feel so stuck in this place between belief and unbelief that all I can think to say is, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!".
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(A lot of the following is how I've pictured it as if I were standing in the story. All of the accounts of this healing [Mark 9:14-29, Matthew 17:14-21, Luke 9:37-43] don't really give us an up close and personal view of the father, or any of the characters really. But they are human, their natures are not so difficult to imagine. Regardless, this is my disclaimer: I made some of it up. I encourage you to follow along in Mark 9:14-29 if you are able to.)
This man is desperate! His son has been possessed since he was little, and this is no doubt not the first time that the father has sought healing for him. He brings his boy, in faith, to where Jesus is supposed to be. Instead, he finds 9 of the 12 disciples and the news that Jesus is up the mountain, not to return for a while.
If I were him, this would have deflated me a little.
But never fear! The disciples have performed healings only three chapters ago and are eager to prove that, even if they aren't "special" enough to go up the mountain with Jesus, they aren't useless. They probably insisted that they could heal his boy.
So they try. ...And they fail. (Lack of faith can do that... see Matthew 17:19-21)
So while an argument starts between some religious teachers and the disciples for who knows what reason, I imagine this father is off on the side-lines... beginning to wonder if his little boy CAN ever be healed, beginning to doubt when, if ever, life will change.
Then Jesus walks up.
The argument stops, people run to greet him, and he asks what everyone was arguing about.
The father steps up and desperately explains how he brought his son to see Jesus so that he could be healed. He explains the boy's situation (basically, the demon causes grand mal seizures, which I can't imagine watching your child go through). Then he breaks the bad news... the disciples couldn't do it.
Jesus says a couple of choice words on the faithlessness of his disciples, and then he says, "Bring the boy to me."
Any hope the father may have had at Jesus finally being in the story, I imagine, probably didn't last long as, upon seeing Jesus, the evil spirit "threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth."
Gah! To be a parent in that situation must be heart breaking! I have very little doubt that all he was thinking was how much he wished this could all be over for his son.
In my head, the father turns to Jesus beseechingly hoping that Jesus is seeing this and will heal his boy NOW.
But instead, Jesus asks, "How long has this been happening?"
(I love this part!) Jesus sees the struggle of doubt within the father, He knows the fear the father has that even JESUS won't be able to heal his boy, and Jesus can tell that this man's faith has been shaken.
And as the father answers Jesus, I can feel his desperation as he explains even more strongly that the evil spirit has tried to kill his boy! He cries, "Have mercy on us and help us, if you can."
There it is.
The father has identified his own doubt.
// Mark 9:23-24 NLT // "What do you mean, 'If I can'?" Jesus asked. "Anything is possible if a person believes." The father instantly cried out, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!" //
THEN... Jesus turns to the boy. "I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!"
The spirit screams and throws the boy into another seizure, but this time, I don't think the father doubts. This time, he believes it now, is the last time.
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Like I said before, I relate to this father.
I very strongly believe that God has a plan for my future. I just lose sight of that sometimes when another year passes and it isn't my future yet. I get discouraged and start to think, maybe the things I hope for will never happen, maybe the future I have in my head will never exist.
I'm in that place right now.
I needed this story to remind me that I have a Savior who is CONSTANT, and a God who has a future and a hope PLANNED for me. His timing will be PERFECT, I just have to live in faith.
When I catch myself doubting what my future will hold and/or when it will hold it, I will pray, "Father, I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief."