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The Doubting Believer

I believe, help my unbelief. –Mark 9:24

We are accustomed to hearing sermons on the men and women of great faith and mighty deeds in the Bible and later church history. We preachers are constantly holding them up as examples for us to follow. We hear much of the importance of faith, even the necessity of faith and the sinfulness of unbelief. Because of this when we are faced with times of uncertainty or doubt or fear in our own lives, we don’t know what to think.

Because of my own experience and my sometimes shaky faith I’ve been thinking about two stories in the Bible. In one Jesus walks on water and Peter tries to duplicate it. In the other a man brings his son, ‘who is possessed by a spirit,” with physical manifestations such as speechlessness and foaming at the mouth.
What connects these two stories is the picture of persons who express both faith and doubt, even unbelief.

In the first Peter, at Jesus’ invitation tries to walk on water is terrified by the storm and begins to sink. After Jesus rescues him, he says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

In the second, when the father brings his son to the disciples for healing, they fail. Jesus labels them as unbelieving and says, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” And the father cries out, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

So contrary to what is sometimes suggested or we sometimes think faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there are times when blind faith, faith unexamined or presumption needs to be tempered with skepticism.

In no way do I mean to minimize the importance even necessity of faith, or that the lack of faith displeases God. However, we cannot allow doubts to derail our journey with Jesus. They concern me, trouble me and call me to get closer to him. But because I sometimes have questions, doubts cannot be allowed to prevent me from following him.

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

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