For almost 30 years I have stood behind a pulpit every Sunday and tried to bring a message of hope to the people in attendance. My faith in Jesus Christ has led me to believe that the story of his life, death, and resurrection is a message of hope for the entire world. Now there is no doubt that we live in a broken world and that our own individual lives are broken as well. At different points along our journeys, we find ourselves looking for a light of hope when the darkness envelops us. We look to a light that will lead us out of the darkness and into the brightness of a new day.
Jesus once said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) In Jesus we are promised that we can have the light of life to accompany us as we live out our lives in the world; even when the world and our lives are dark. This is indeed a message of hope. It is a message that I felt called to proclaim many years ago and have sought to be faithful to its truth.
But in all honesty, there are times in my life when this light barely flickers. I imagine you have experienced the same thing. During these periods I don’t feel very hopeful. Life has put me in a tailspin and it just seems that I sink deeper into darkness. I know that Jesus is the light of the world, but sometimes I doubt the power of his light.
In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, there is a story in which a young son is brought to Jesus to be healed. The young boy seems to suffer from some form of epilepsy. Mark tells us that the boy falls into convulsions, falls to the ground, and rolls about and foams at the mouth. When Jesus asks his father how long he has suffered, the father says since childhood. The father also asks Jesus to have pity on them. To his request, Jesus responds, “All things can be done for the one who believes.” (Mark 9:23) The father wants to believe, but confesses his doubts by saying, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) It is the prayer of an honest man.
In my own life, even at times as I have been preaching a Sunday sermon, I have been inwardly praying, “I believe; help my unbelief.” Even as I proclaim the hope we have in Jesus Christ as our light in our darkness, I must acknowledge the doubts and darkness within. I need help with my belief. I can’t muster up the strength to believe, but even my faith is dependent upon God’s grace. “Yes, I believe. But Lord, help my unbelief.”
As followers of Jesus, we are a mixed bag of faith and doubt; light and darkness. This is why we are dependent upon God’s grace to help us in our weakness. It is why our faith cannot grow without the help of God’s grace. The prayer of the father may be one of the most honest in the Bible. May we be honest as well before God. May we trust that God’s light can poke holes in the darkness of our doubts and lead us to believe as Jesus said, “All things are possible for the one who believes.”