There are days when my faith is weak and weary—it’s bones are dry and brittle, and it’s muscles are flimsy. After waiting for an answer to prayer for so long, or in the middle of fiery suffering, there are days I am scrounging for a morsel of faith to believe God is with me, he is sovereign, and he is good. Some days hope is only a drip of water in the desert sand.
Maybe you have felt that too, that grasping in the air for faith while your hope is depleted. What kind of counsel and encouragement have you found in those times? Were you told that your miracle was in God’s hands waiting for your faith to be stronger? That you needed to work with God to get this miracle? That it’s time to brace up and just start trusting God more? This kind of counsel is similar to a mirage of water—from a distance it appears as a cool, refreshing drink, but in reality it’s only the sun beating down on the dry sand.
Friend, if your faith is weak and you’re stumbling through a barren land in search of something to strengthen you, there is one who loves you, who supplies your every ounce of faith, even when you feel faithless.
A Story of Unbelief and Belief
If anyone knew of this kind of grace, it’s the dad in Mark 9.
After Jesus’ transfiguration, a father came to him with his demon-possessed son. Since childhood, his son was held captive by this demon that made him mute, threw him into fits of seizures, and tried to kill him by driving him into fire and water.
This father was weary. He asked the disciples to heal his son, but they couldn’t. Years had been spent watching his beloved son tortured by this demon. By the time this man found Jesus, his faith was brittle. “If you can do anything,” he said to Jesus, “have compassion on us and help us,” (Mark 9:22 ESV). Jesus saw the flicker between faith and unbelief in this dad. Jesus replied, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes,” (v. 23). The father cried out (and some manuscripts add with tears), “I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24).
Like this father, when your faith is weak and you feel like you’re digging in the sand for a drop of faith, you can cry out to the One who is the supplier of all your faith. “I believe; help my unbelief.” Commentating on this passage, Matthew Henry wrote:
Those that complain of unbelief, must look up to Christ for grace to help them against it, and his grace shall be sufficient for them. “Help mine unbelief, help me to a pardon for it, help me with power against it; help out what is wanting in my faith with thy grace, the strength of which is perfected in our weakness.”¹
Our Justifier and Sanctifier
You can pray to God for faith because every ounce of your faith is first a gift from God. Your conversion itself wasn’t your own doing—the ability and desire to put your trust in Christ as the Saviour of your soul and repent of your sins was from the hand of God molding your heart. Sanctification is no different. Rather, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 1:6 ESV, emphasis mine). God begins the work and finishes it. The Spirit doesn’t initiate your faith and then leave the rest to you, but continues to fuel your faith and strengthen it in his power through the Word. As Michael Horton wrote,
We do not find some gifts, like justification, in Christ and then other gifts, like sanctification, in ourselves or even in the Spirit apart from Christ. In the same act of faith, one is justified and renewed. These are distinct gifts that must never be confused, but they are given together—with every other blessing—through faith in Christ.²
Friend, when you are weak and weary from suffering and waiting, don’t continue to try to pick yourself up by your own bootstraps. Stop trying to muster up enough faith to get your miracle or trust in God’s promises. Look to Christ who you are hidden in, who has saved you from your sin and unbelief that once condemned you. Call out to him and plea, “I believe; help my unbelief.”
And to those who give counsel and who teach the Word to others, I ask that you stop giving your listeners unbearable laws they were never meant to carry. I myself have put this same burden on people and told them to have more faith and work harder. But that’s not our hope in the gospel. When people are worn and weary, let’s give them Jesus—and nothing less.
Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 187). Peabody: Hendrickson.
Horton, Michael. Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, 304.