Doubt and Unbelief

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”  Mark 9:24 NIV.

Belief is a faith-decision that reinforces your conviction about truth.

My thoughts and comments today are about “doubt and unbelief.”

Doubt is not uncommon; questions and uncertainty afflict us all. Believing isn’t as always easy as you wish. Circumstances conspire against confidence in what you believe, usually at inopportune times. Unanswered questions, past disappointments, discouraging opinions, ambivalent feelings, or other factors – inside and around you – present a challenge to unwavering conviction.

In some moments, doubt and belief may briefly co-exist. It may be helpful to think of doubt as a temporary condition, prelude to the more settled disposition of unbelief. Doubt may evidence you are processing your desire to believe; unbelief occurs when you surrender to your doubts.

Mark relates a story of a weary, distraught father who brought his young son first to the disciples to be healed, and then to Jesus. Read Mark 9:17-27 NIV. The father’s request was simple, “If you can do anything . . help us.” The need was real; the father was hopeful. Yet doubt lingered. He faced a consequential moment of decision. Doubt is an unsettling feeling; belief is a faith-decision that reinforces your conviction about truth. Moments of doubt do not disqualify you, unless you cling to them even in opposition to truth.  

Jesus’ response was equally as simple, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Your decision to believe is important. This man was honest. He knew that belief and faith are not matters you can fake. His response describes the emotional ambivalence every one has felt in some situation. “Immediately, the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief.’” Mark 9:24 NKJV/NIV. His expression of anguish and emotion reveals the inner struggle between belief and unbelief. Yet, he professes his strong intent to believe even while confessing his struggle. See Hebrews 11:6 NLT.

Your will alone may not overcome disbelief, unless fortified with the enduring Word of God and your faith. “Help me overcome my unbelief,” elicits God’s assistance every time. Across the years, I have observed that people get this backwards, tending to “believe their doubts,” rather than truth. Both doubt and belief are choices one makes. The good news is this: God gives you the power to choose. Such choices are not made in a vacuum, but in the broader context of your humanity, history, and circumstance. I have become convinced that you do not really choose what you believe; you choose who you believe and that ultimately determines what you believe. Choose to believe God and His Word, whatever the confusion of your feelings at the moment.

You might recall Peter’s brief experience of walking on water. See Matthew 14:22-33 NKJV. On nothing more than Jesus’ words, he bravely began his miraculous walk, until “he saw that the wind was boisterous . . afraid and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Matthew 14:30 NKJV. Peter’s courage was, in a moment’s time, overwhelmed by his misinterpretation of reality.

Like the distraught father, he struggled with belief and doubt. Safe and sustained as Jesus took him by the hand, Jesus asked, “Why did you doubt?” The word, “doubt,” comes from a descriptive, Greek word, “distazo,” which means, “two standings.” The word indicates trying to hold two contradictive ideas. See James 1:6-8 NIV. The place to rest your doubts is trusting firmly in the truth of God, in His character and Word. You can choose to believe God even while dealing with doubt.

My prayer for you today is: do not doubt the whisper of truth God speaks to your heart.