Stephanie Pavlantos: Lord, Help my Unbelief
Have you ever had a very sick child?
Or maybe you found out your child was diabetic, deaf, blind, autistic, or have some other type of physical disability.
Since my son was premature, he didn’t hit developmental milestones on time. He was taking his time crawling; he did more rolling to get where he wanted to go. When we felt like he should be walking, we held his hands while helping him stand. But he did not want to do that. He cried and was 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. Mike and I were shocked and in unbelief. I had heard of this, 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 would be fine. Still, it was hard to see our son barely able to walk at four years old, and needing extremely painful surgery. It killed me. He recovered well but used a tiny walker for two years or so, after needing 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. We wondered what God was doing, and why He allowed this. We struggled with our 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” (Mark 9:22 ESV). I love Jesus’ answer, “If I can?” Then the father cried out, “I believe; Lord help my unbelief!” (see Mark 9:24 ESV). 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 belief (there is 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. When Matthew was an infant I dreamed about his life and what he would be and 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. He 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.”https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2013/01/devotional-mark-924/
How did Jesus respond to this..? He 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 for a child as well as we do. When we struggle with our faith, sometimes it’s not that we don’t love Jesus, it’s just that we need our love put in the proper order. Jesus can help with that. He doesn’t hold back healing or His love because we struggle.
God did not heal our son Matthew all at once. He had other issues, medications, and surgeries until he was seventeen. But God loves us and always knew 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, is 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.
In what ways do demonstrate your love for Jesus as your top priority?
Heavenly Father, You are good, even when I don’t deserve it. Please help me when I struggle with unbelief.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Copyright 2020: Lord, Help my Unbelief: Stephanie Pavlantos: All Rights Reserved