Can unbelief be belief?

Belief doesn’t come easy.  Even when everything in us wants to believe, often we can’t muster up the energy to actually believe for what we hope will happen.   Jesus ran across a man who put to words what I often feel.  I find his response refreshing and annoying at the same time.

This man has a real problem that he brings to Jesus.  “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth…” (Mk 9:17) This dad goes on to explain an little more about the situation, about how Jesus’ followers could heal his son, and then he says, “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (v.22)  This man says “if” to Jesus.  That doesn’t sound like belief to me.  That sounds like doubt, but somewhere in the midst of the doubt Jesus recognized belief.  Maybe the step of belief was the simple act of bringing his son to Jesus disciples.  Maybe Jesus saw into this man’s heart.  Jesus’ response, “‘If You can?’ (P)All things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” (v.23-24)

The refreshing part of this father’s response is the honesty that he brings to Jesus.  After all, the man does proclaim belief.  Earlier in this same chapter Jesus had just scolded his followers for unbelief (v.19), so we know that Jesus is not being fickle about the weight that belief carries.  The annoying part is that too often we use this response as a cop out for not believing that Jesus can do this, whatever the “this” is that is in front of us.  When this verse in brought up, the focus tends to be on “help my unbelief” instead of “Lord, I believe!”  Just as with the father, may our immediate response be belief.

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