Saturday, August 29, 2009

Help My Unbelief

There is an account in the Gospels of a man who wants Jesus to heal his son. The kid is afflicted by a spirit that sends the child into what mirrors bouts of seizures. Jesus answers "All things are possible to him who believes."

"I believe!" the father cries out and paradoxically continues, "Help my unbelief."

At times I have felt the same way as the father of the afflicted child. I have decided to follow Jesus, but am confronted with situations that test belief, like the tide pulling a boat away from the moor it's attached to - the ropes tense and wood moans while onlookers wonder will they snap?

But a “smooth sea never produced a seasoned sailor.” Similarly, in my walk of faith I have found that challenges and doubts are opportunities to deepen intellectual and emotional commitment to what I have experienced as Ultimate Reality.

An older friend of mine once said, "Nothing strengthens my faith like doubt."

C.S. Lewis once advised that spiritual pilgrim's should be willing to keep questions in their back pockets for a time. As one of the greatest Christian apologists in history, he was not advocating a mindless belief; instead, he offers the wisdom that in so many parts of our lives we must wait for answers. Why should faith be an exception? I think it is sound to trust what we have known in times past to be unchanging and true to possess that same validity even when we go through periods of darkness.

Is doubt good? In certain situations. I know for certain that it has at least been used for good throughout my journey.

Two more questions:

But is that good enough? Should we strive to be doubtless?

Well, as someone who follows Jesus I think that we should always be striving for what the Bible calls "perfection" or "maturity." To come to the full measure. That being said, doubts may be an integral part of coming to the full measure. When would faith be necessitated without them? Would we seek answers without having questions first? Furthermore, there are probably different kinds of doubts which grow from various roots. Perhaps differentiating malignant and healthy forms would help answer the aforementioned questions.

Being forced to answer our own questions also helps us identify with and aid others struggling with similar qualms.

The man struggling with (not between) faith and the pain of seeing his son suffer was not disappointed. Jesus healed his son after the man’s declaration of belief/help-my-unbelief.

Maybe there is an undercurrent here showing that although the man had some doubts, he ultimately believed Christ would help him through them. That's an expression of faith in itself.

We can apply this by being honest about doubts and pursuing answers. After those answers are discovered or we find that different questions should have been asked in the first place, we can come alongside others who are seeking truth and point them to the place we discovered it.

Doubtless, the man with the healed child did not keep answers to himself, but pointed the needy he knew to Christ.

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