Lent Reflections @ CEC (3/23/20)
Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. Martin Luther
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 9:1-29; focused on Mark 9:17-19, 21-24
A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
So they brought him. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Every time I read this scripture, it tears at my heart. I sense the desperation in the father’s voice as he pleads for his demon-possessed son, and his anguish that no one has been able to help the boy. I hear the frustration in the voice of Jesus as he chastises his disciples, calling them an “unbelieving generation” for their inability to accomplish this healing. The father has undoubtedly tried countless times over the years to find a cure for his son’s infirmity and has never met with success, so it is no wonder that he addresses Jesus with the words, “ If you can do anything…”
Jesus’ response to the boy’s father is designed not as a reprimand, but rather as an encouragement to believe, an affirmation of the power of God to work in the lives of those who put absolute faith in his ability to do so. The fact that the father has brought the boy to Jesus is a testimony to his belief that Jesus does have the power to help, but past disappointments have contributed to this man’s inability to trust completely. His exclamation, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” indicates that he recognizes this weakness in himself and desires to be free from it.
The cry of this father echoes down to us in the present day. Despite having accepted Christ as Savior, most of us still struggle with varying degrees of unbelief. There are many reasons for this. Painful circumstances such as an unhappy childhood, a traumatic experience, or a significant loss may cause us to doubt God’s goodness or his power to intervene in our lives and in our world. Perhaps we have experienced hardship or illness that has threatened to rob us of all hope and make us easy prey for whatever would seek to separate us from God. Our fervent prayers may have gone unanswered for years, even those prayers that we are confident are in line with God’s will, such as when we ask that our family members be restored to a relationship with Christ, or that we would be freed from the destructiveness of compulsions, addictions, fears, anger, jealousy, bitterness, or resentment that damages our relationship with God and with those closest to us.
Like the father in this story, we need to reach out to Jesus and ask him to help us overcome those obstacles that have the potential to limit what God can accomplish in our lives. When we confess our dependence upon his grace and mercy, he can help remove whatever stands in the way of our faith. Mark’s gospel reminds us over and over again that we need to trust not only in the power and ability of Jesus to help, to heal, and to restore, but also in his desire and willingness to do so. The words of Jesus, “Everything is possible for him who believes” should offer daily encouragement, affirmation, and hope, even as we wrestle with unbelief from time to time.
Lord, we echo the prayer of this father. We believe, but help our unbelief. Thank You for Your patience with us. Help us to recognize and ask for Your help to remove those obstacles that keep us from fully trusting You. We stand amazed in Your presence and are grateful for the grace, love and mercy that You continually show us each and every day