“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
These are the words of a father whose son was possessed by a spirit that robbed him of his speech and often threw him to the ground with seizures and foaming at the mouth. The disciples tried to drive out the spirit, but could not. The father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus replied, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” The father cried out in desperation, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Jesus commanded the spirit to come out of the boy and he was healed. (Mark 9:14-29)
Belief and faith are something Jesus holds in high esteem. He often responds to people who have been healed through his prayer and physical touch, “Your faith has healed you.” Yet, we have to sympathize with the father of this boy who has seen his son suffer so much over such a long period of time. He has some belief or he wouldn’t have asked Jesus to intervene.
Like the father in this story, how often is our belief and faith challenged by a lengthy illness in ourselves or a loved one that continues indefinitely without any sign of improvement, or an addiction in a loved one that no amount of prayer seems to bring under control, or any other challenging circumstance that appears to have no end. We pray, we fast, we go to church, and we ask friends to intercede. We read scripture that tells us, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Mt. 21:22)
Yet, the illness, the addiction or the circumstance continues. Doubt starts to creep in and we become fearful that our belief and faith our not adequate.
Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive form of prostate cancer. My Gleason score was a nine on a scale of ten, a marker for judging the severity of the cancer. The pathology report from the surgery revealed that the cancer had escaped the prostate and gotten into at least one lymph node.
My wife, our five children and their families and friends prayed for me. One friend was even so bold as to push his way into the pre-op room and pray over me and the two surgeons. My surgeon showed me a chart after the surgery that predicted recurrence in five years for someone with my symptoms. I underwent hormone therapy for three years. My PSA (a measure of the presence of prostate cancer cells) went undetectable for nine years.
A couple of years ago my PSA started to rise gradually and reached the recurrence level early this year. The last two tests, however, have shown a slight decrease. While my circumstances have certainly not been as challenging as the father with the possessed son, I must confess to some degree of worry with each bi-monthly PSA test. Still, I know that I must trust in God who has brought me thus far.
Like the father of the possessed son, I pray, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!”
“You who dwell in the shelter of the Most high, who abide in the shadows of the Almighty, say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)