Health issues, job losses, death of loved ones, ongoing stressful circumstances — all these things can make a believer struggle with unbelief. We start to doubt if God is working in the situation or question His goodness.
Oftentimes, we can become so focused on the challenging situation that we lose sight of God and His ability. In those moments, we need help to bolster our faith.
Jesus can help us overcome our unbelief when we cry out to Him. Just as He did for the father of the demon-possessed boy, Jesus can help us see our weakness, demonstrate His power, and redirect our focus to Him. He faithfully helps us in our unbelief and patiently shows us that He is trustworthy.
Biblical Context and Background
Directly after the event of the Transfiguration, Jesus and the “inner circle” of disciples descended the mountain and found the rest of the disciples unable to heal a demon-possessed boy (Mark 9:2-14).
Experts in the law were arguing with the disciples, and the boy’s father was overwhelmed (Mark 9:14,17-18).
Commenting on the disciples’ lack of faith, Jesus requested that the boy be brought to Him (Mark 9:19). The father explained the condition of his son: “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” (Mark 9:22).
Based on the father’s reply, his experience with the disciples has caused him to doubt Jesus’ ability. Christ repeated the father’s words: “‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes’” (Mark 9:23).
After Jesus’ corrective statement, the man cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Although he believed in Jesus, he also struggled with doubts and weakness in his faith. Jesus immediately demanded that the demon leave the boy and heals him of the painful possession (Mark 9:25-27).
In this conversation between the Lord and the boy’s father, we learn how Jesus helped the man overcome unbelief. By noticing these aspects of the conversation, we can note how Christ helps us with our doubts and questions.
He Points Out Areas of Weakness
In their conversation, Jesus started by pointing out the father’s struggle with doubt. The man had asked Jesus for help but doubted the Lord’s ability: “If you can” (Mark 9:22). Jesus answers this doubt by reminding the man that anything is possible for the one who believes (Mark 9:23).
The problem was that the man was focusing on the challenging circumstance instead of God. He witnessed the disciples’ inability to heal his son and was overwhelmed by the seriousness of his situation.
The man’s son was suffering, and he questioned if Jesus could free his son from the demon. Jesus’ reply allowed the man to see the weakness of his faith, which was the first step in overcoming his doubts.
Like the father of the demon-possessed boy, we often focus on challenging situations and forget the truth of Jesus’ strength.
These circumstances can discourage us, but they can also reveal areas of doubt in our life. Jesus uses these situations to help us recognize our weaknesses, so we can start focusing on His strength.
He Patiently Demonstrates His Power
Christ demonstrated His authority over the spiritual world that day and showed the boy’s father His ability and trustworthiness. Both the disciples and the boy’s father displayed weakness of faith and doubts.
Jesus bemoaned their lack of faith when He said, “’You unbelieving generation,’” … “‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?’” (Mark 9:19). He addressed both the crowd and the disciples.
The disciples had repeatedly witnessed Jesus’ miracles that demonstrated His divinity and power. He had power over the elements (Mark 4:41), power over demons (Mark 1:25), and even power over death (Mark 5:41-42).
All these signs served as proof of His identity as the Messiah and Son of God (John 30-31). Similarly, Jesus showed the boy’s father that He is powerful and capable by driving out the demon from the boy.
Importantly, Jesus also dealt with Thomas in a similar way. Thomas was skeptical of the other disciples’ claims that Jesus was resurrected.
He claimed, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands, and put my finger where the nails have been, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe” (John 20:25, BSB).
When Christ appeared to Thomas, He took care to show the disciple His hands, feet, and side. As He told Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27).
In His patience with our doubts and questions, Jesus willingly gets down to our level. He shows us His strength and power so that we can overcome our unbelief.
Today, Christians have the complete Word of God. By reading Scripture and seeing Jesus’ faithfulness as our Lord and Savior, we can grow in our faith.
He ensured that the disciples would record His words and deeds for them and future generations of people who would place faith in Him because of the disciples’ testimony (John 14:26; 17:20). Thus, one of the ways Jesus shows us His power today is through His Word.
He Redirects Our Focus on Him
Driving out the demon from the boy, Jesus showed that He is powerful and capable. However, his words to the boy’s father show that the one who has faith trusts that God is capable and willing.
As John D. Grassmick notes in his commentary, “Faith sets no limits on God’s power and submits itself to His will” (“Mark,” Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament Edition).
Jesus knew that He could and would heal the boy despite the faith of the father. Yet, in most instances in the gospel accounts, Jesus focuses on the individual’s faith in Him.
He was just as concerned with a person’s spiritual life as He was with their physical ailments (John 5:13-14; 9:35-41). Our Lord cared about the boy’s physical oppression by a demon and the father’s struggle with unbelief.
Instead of focusing on doubts and the assumed “strength” of our own faith, we must focus on God and His strength. Followers of Christ are not immune from hardships that shake their faith. Paul struggled with a “thorn in the flesh” that made him feel weak.
The Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Our weakness and struggle with faith point us back to our need for Jesus because our strength and faith come from Him.
When we experience unbelief, Jesus brings our focus back on Himself instead of focusing on the situation or our perceived ability.
Why Does This Matter?
In the moments when we experience unbelief, Jesus helps us understand our need for Him. He shows us our weakness in contrast to His power. All our self-sufficiency and perceived strength fade away, and we are left fully aware of our neediness.
Scripture reminds us that “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Despite our weakness and doubts, Jesus continues to stay faithful. He helps us overcome our unbelief by reminding us of our need for Him and redirecting our focus on Him.