Have you ever had a very sick child?
Or maybe you found out your child would be diabetic, deaf, blind, autistic, or have some type of disability.
Since my son was premature, he didn’t hit developmental milestones on time. He took his time crawling; he rolled everywhere he wanted to go. We held his hands while helping him stand or take a few steps. But he did not want to do that. He cried and clung to us, terrified we would let go of him. After a while of this, and taking him to our doctor for regular checkups, our doctor recommended an orthopedist.
Matthew was nearly two years old when he saw Dr. Schrader. After being in his office for three minutes, Dr. Schrader told us, “I’m pretty sure I know what’s wrong, but let me do some x-rays first.” He came back to the room with the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. This diagnosis shocked us and left us in disbelief. I knew of cerebral palsy, but my husband did not know what this meant. He immediately thought it was like muscular dystrophy, which can mean death at a fairly young age. The doctor assured us Matthew would get no worse. He would need physical and occupational therapy but will be fine. Still, it was hard to see our son barely able to walk at four years old and needing excruciating surgery. It killed me. He recovered well but used a tiny walker for two years or so, and still needed multiple surgeries. My husband didn’t take it well. We sought prayer for healing many times; even taking him to a local faith healer. We wanted Matthew to have a “normal” life. Mike and I wondered what God was doing, and why He allowed this. I struggled with my faith at times as well.
Mark 9:14-29 tells us of a story of a man struggling with his faith. The disciples could not cast out the demon in his son, so he took it up with Jesus. The father asked Jesus,
“If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” I love Jesus’ answer…”If I can?”
The father cried out, “I believe; Lord help my unbelief!”
What does this mean? I have heard many explanations about it and have attempted to explain it myself.
I read a devotional on this by Chaim Bentorah from Biblical Hebrew Studies. He explains that a certain Aramaic (another Semitic language) word for faith or believe (there are more than one) refers to a mother nursing her baby. There is an underlying meaning, he explained:
Faith or belief in the Semitic mindset is a bonding, an expression of love, honor, and respect. We tell people in our Western culture that they must believe, like it is a great effort. They must grit their teeth, clutch their fist and like the child in “Miracle on 34th Street” keep repeating over and over: “I believe, I believe.” Yet hayaman (belief, faith) is as natural as a mother nursing her baby. The baby looking up into its mother’s eyes and the mother looking into her child’s face shows pure love, commitment, and bonding. Nothing is forced, disciplined, it just happens.https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2013/01/devotional-mark-924/
We can imagine the father in Mark’s story having plans for his son’s future just as we do for our children. I often thought about Matthew’s life when he was an infant–who he would grow up to be, do, and what sports he may play. When this father said, “Help my unbelief,” the Aramaic word for unbelief correlates with “little faith” more than lack of faith. Chaim goes on to say this father loved his son and he loved Jesus, but he needed his love in the proper order. We know we need to love Jesus more than anything, but when your child, spouse, or other loved one needs healing, it’s hard to think of anything else. Chaim explains this even more:
His love at that moment for his son was greater than his love for Jesus, but what little love he had for Jesus he asked that Jesus accept that as its priority. The man was literally saying: “I want to love you more than my son, but to be honest, that is a little hard right now, accept what love I can give you.”
Jesus responded by healing the man’s son. He is so good! When we struggle with unbelief or putting our love for God in the right order, He understands! He understood how much we wanted Matthew healed. He understands the love of a parent for their child. God knows the love of a child as well as we do.
God did not heal Matthew all at once. He had other issues, medications, and surgeries until he was seventeen. But God loves us and always knows our needs. He has never stopped providing for us or our children. Matthew still has some minor difficulties. Our pastor at that time asked us if complete healing meant Matthew’s personality, love for God, and his gentle spirit changed, would we still want it?
Our answer was “NO.”
Matthew’s struggles (and ours) are creating us to be who God wants us to be. Matthew’s love for the Lord is evident to all who know him. He has never felt sorry for himself or wanted pity from others. He is stronger than most people I know. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
Share how God led you with an unusual family situation.
Lord God, I trust You even when I don’t understand.
Copyright 2021: Lord, Help my Unbelief: Stephanie Pavlantos: All Rights Reserved