Heal my unbelief

Daily Readings: Judges 5-6, Mark 9, Psalm 68

I love the story of Gideon. The church I attend recently finished up a series on Gideon and the courage that it takes to follow God’s will in our lives. When his story popped up again today in our readings, I was reminded of another reason his story is so inspiring to me: His story reflects so many of our stories.

At the beginning of this story Gideon is met by and angel and we see the following encounter:

The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” 

But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Judges 6:20-24

God had promised Gideon a victory over the Midianites. For 7 years God had allowed the Israelites to experience the ramifications of their actions. They had turned away from God, worshipped false idols, and broken their covenant with God. Now God tells Gideon he has come to save them.

At first we see Gideon following God’s instructions and removing the altar of Baal from his own household before leading the Israelites against the Midianites. But as the time to confront the enemy draws near Gideon grows nervous…

Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

Judges 6:36-40

Every time I read this series of events I look back at my own life and laugh. I would venture to guess that most of us truly are like Gideon.

There have been so many examples of God showing up in my life in incredible ways. On my occurrences I have strongly felt that God directed me down a certain path and walked that path faithfully despite obstacles that came my way.

However, frequently I have been Gideon. Frequently I have wanted to negotiate with God for just one more sign.

“Lord, I know you made this fairly clear already, but my normal human emotions are kicking in, so I am going to need you to confirm that one last time…”

“Ok, maybe just one more confirmation…”

“Ok, those were nice. Thank you for that. I am really nervous though, and at this point I need a borderline audible voice…”

I love that Gideon even realized he was being ridiculous as he was asking this of God. “Do not be angry with me…”

We see another story of unbelief in today’s readings as well.

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. “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.”

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Mark 9:19-24

This is a different type of belief in Mark 9. In the case of Gideon, he didn’t feel that he was worthy of being used by God to accomplish incredible works. Here in Mark, we see someone struggling to believe that they can be on the receiving end of God working a miracle in their life through no effort of their own.

I imagine we have all found ourselves relating to each of these two stories at times in our lives.

In some cases, God wants to use us to accomplish great things and our natural tendency is to say, “Are you sure you have the right person?” We then kindly inform God of all the reasons we are unqualified, incapable, and simply not enough. We have an identity issue. We see ourselves through our own lens and not through God’s lens. The good news is that virtually every major character throughout the entire Bible struggled with this same feeling! You are in good company!

In other cases we want to come before our father in Heaven and ask for something on behalf of another or ourselves. But that nagging unbelief lingers…

“Heal my unbelief!”

God knows that we struggle believing. God knows we struggle to accept his calling for our life. God knows every one of our human weaknesses.

I love Jesus showing us that part of him that is fully human and slightly annoyed in today’s story when he said, “You unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”

And yet our God is patient. He is loving. He wants to give us the chance to turn our unbelief into belief. He wants to give us the chance to step into our calling even if we begin that journey needing to be dragged into it a bit, kicking and screaming like a child. That nervousness, apprehension, and personal insecurity put us in good company when you read stories of all the major characters throughout the Bible.

The key is that we are willing to say, “Lord, heal my unbelief.”

I can point back to many times throughout my life where I prayed that prayer at some point along the way and God was there to greet me.

However, I sometimes wonder how many times I have missed out on something God had put in my path, whether it be an undeserved blessing or an opportunity to serve others, because I acted like Gideon one too many times. For every Gideon in the Bible there are also lots of periods of seven years leading up to Gideon where God had to say, “Alright, if you are going to be that stubborn…”

I know as a parent, I constantly have to think through this with my own children. Sometimes they make the right choice soon enough, but sometimes I have given them one too many reminders (my wife might argue three too many reminders) and there needs to be consequences for their disobedience.

I am a human father with imperfect judgment. Our father in Heaven’s judgment is perfect and just. Our human timeline is short, his timeline is eternal.

Today, this week, and this year my prayer will be, “Lord, heal my unbelief. Heal my unbelief on a daily basis that you want to work in my life. Heal my unbelief on the larger scale so that I might have the courage to be steadfast on this path you have put me on.”

Heal my unbelief.

Thought to ponder

When have I most recently been Gideon and constantly asked for “just one more sign” that I should walk down a path God has clearly laid in front of me? When have I have been the father in the story wanting to ask God for a miracle in my life or the life of a loved one and struggled with unbelief?

“Why bother the teacher?”

Daily Readings: Joshua 21-22, Mark 5, Psalm 65

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 5:21-43

Seeing these two separate stories juxtaposed next to each other really spoke to me today. In one case there is the woman who truly believes in her heart that “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed!” She believed so thoroughly in the healing power of God to work miracles in her life!

As this is still happening we read of other people coming from the house of Jairus saying, “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

As I was reading this morning it occurred to me that I have frequently been able to relate to each of these stories at different points throughout my own life. There have been times where I completely believe in the Father’s ability to heal me mentally, emotionally, and physically from whatever is holding me captive at the moment. In these moments I absolutely run after the Father know that if I can simply be in his presence all will be well. “If I just touch his clothes…”

Then there have been moments where I feel like I have failed over and over and over again at whatever battle I have been facing and it feels a lot more like the second story. I have felt completely defeated to the point where I don’t even want to bring my concerns to the Father. It feels hopeless. It feels like the last chance for God to work a miracle, in whatever that challenge was in my life, has died.

“Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Why bring this problem to God when I have let him down so many times in the past? Maybe it is just time to throw in the towel on this one and simply be thankful that Christ went to the cross for my sins and I have salvation as a result that cannot be taken away, because clearly I cannot overcome this struggle!

Jesus says, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”

I wonder if Jesus has ever spoken this to you in an area of your life? I wonder if there has ever been an issue you have dealt with for so long when Jesus says, “This battle is not over yet…” the immediate response in your heart has become the same as in the story, disbelieving laughter.

God wants us to be the woman in the crowd.

“If I can just touch his clothes!”

The woman in the crowd had suffered her bleeding for 12 years before she received healing. The child in the house only recently became sick. Sometimes healing, whether emotional or physical, comes after years and years. Sometimes it is nearly instantaneous.

Healing doesn’t always come the way we picture it. Sometimes God’s plan is different than our own. I imagine Jairus didn’t picture his daughter dying as part of this story as he reached out to Jesus to come to his house and heal her. Sometimes the healing we are after is one type and yet Jesus uses our challenge to give us healing in a different area we never even realize we needed.

Press in. Draw near. Chase after his presence. Reach out and touch his clothes. Jesus is there and the Father is willing.

Thought to ponder

In what area of my life have I recently given up on the hope of healing? Where have I recently felt like “I should no longer bother the teacher”?

Our God Heals

Daily Readings: Psalm 30, Romans 4

Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.

Romans 4:2

This is a post that I am more nervous to share than any other I have written so far. If you are going to continue on reading, I would ask you read it in it’s entirety and not simply skim. It is about a 10 minute read. If not, thanks for getting this far!

Our God heals.

Miraculous and medically unexplainable physical healing is not something that is isolated to Biblical times. It happens today.

Throughout my life I have always believed in the power of God to heal, but I have to confess, I have always allowed the scientist in me to cause my faith to waver.

“Are they really healed? Is this just an emotional response and they are tricking themselves into believing they are healed? Is there another explanation? No! I believe, I do. God help my unbelief. I want to believe…”

The battle rages.

I have had multiple people I know personally healed unexplainably through prayer. It has occurred in my own sphere, not just in a story I read somewhere. And yet, for my entire life, my belief wavered. I would have previously told you that it was not my belief in God’s ability to heal overall that struggled, but rather my belief in each individual situation that faltered. What if it isn’t in God’s plan? What if they don’t fully believe?

Belief in something that is physically observable is scary. You have to really put yourself out there. What if it doesn’t happen? Was it my fault? Did I lack the faith the size of a mustard seed that Jesus spoke of? Was it not God’s will to heal them? Why wouldn’t God choose to heal this person? It is way easier to take the safe road. It is way easier to pray, “God, if it is your will…” and just then go ahead and just assume it isn’t.

God wants us to have the type of faith Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had when standing before the King and boldly proclaiming, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” God wants us to have this type of faith that allows us to walk confidently into the fire expecting to be saved, but acknowledging at the same time that if God chooses not to for some reason that we may not be able to understand, he is still God.

That is such a hard line to walk. I think there is a reason Jesus told us we simply needed faith the size of a mustard seed!

My father was initially diagnosed with brain cancer in 2010 and has now been cancer free for over 6 years. About a year after his brain surgery he had a pretty scary 10 day stretch where he began getting nosebleeds every day, day and night. It was a definite cause for concern. On day 10 he had an appointment with his neurologist who said he needed to make an appointment with his oncologist. Later that same day my Dad felt prompted to take a different rout home, which my Dad never does. When he got off of the highway he saw a man standing next to a motorcycle on the side of the road.

My Dad stopped and asked if he had broken down. The man replied, “Nope, just standing here waiting for a good man to come along.” My Dad wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that so he asked if the man would like a ride. He through the motorcycle in the back of his pickup truck and drove this man back to his sister’s house. Before he left the man asked, “Now what can I do for you?” My Dad at first responded, “Nothing, I just thought you were stranded, so I thought I could give you a ride.” But then after pausing felt prompted to ask if this stranger was a praying man. My father told him about the nosebleeds and asked if this man would pray for healing. He prayed over my father and then looked at him and said, “You will never have a nosebleed again. Do you believe that?” My father responded, “Yes. I do.” The man then turned and walked inside and my Dad has not had a nosebleed in 6 years since. Gone. Miraculously healed after ten days of having these day and night.

Our God heals.

2 years later my youngest daughter Sophie was born with a rare form of cancer and at two months old embarked on a year of chemotherapy. The doctors prepared us at the beginning for the reality of what was to come. They told us that chemo is terrible with infants. They try to avoid it if possible. Sophie wouldn’t know what was going on in her body and was going to cry virtually non-stop and want to eat constantly. The good news was that we caught it early and should be able to beat it. Not only did Sophie beat cancer, but she was one of the happiest baby’s you will ever meet. There was an occasional hard day like with any infant, but the non-stop crying, constantly wanting to eat, simply wasn’t there. The doctors LOVED Sophie and couldn’t believe this child was on chemo. She had so many prayer warriors lifting her up constantly!

Our God heals.

I have prayed for God to heal others with varying degrees of belief throughout my life, hating myself for it every time because of my lack of belief. Even though I have seen miracles, my own belief falters. I want to believe!

There is one person I never even wanted to pray for healing for at all. Me.

I didn’t deserve it. There was more I could personally be doing to heal my back that has given me issues since high school. I could work out more consistently, do my stretches, get adjusted, etc. I wasn’t worthy of healing. I hadn’t been doing my part, why should I expect God to do his? It would almost be unfair for me to ask God for something that I clearly hadn’t earned.

I think this is how so many of us approach God in every area of our lives.

I am not worthy of God walking with me and filling me with the Holy Spirit every day. I am not worth healing physically. I haven’t done my part in reconciling that broken relationship. I have not formed the right habits that would allow me to break free of that addiction. Once I am doing my part, then God can step in and do his. If I just get to a 9/10, God can take me to 10/10. I just have to get to 9.

God’s glory is seen in the miraculous. God’s glory is seen in taking the 1/10 to a 10/10 without us having done anything to “earn it”. Our God is a God of the impossible. Are we willing to believe that?

Last Friday night at a worship gathering I was on my knees praying that God would stir in the hearts of others and that they would come pray over my back for healing. I didn’t even believe I could approach the father for healing on my own behalf…but I wanted to believe. I wanted to borrow conviction from others. I prayed that God would send someone to pray over me…and two people came.

My back was so knotted up that night and had been really struggling the entire week leading up to Friday. My walk with God has been so amazing recently and I wanted to let go of this last area I had been holding onto. I wanted to believe that the father in Heaven loved me as a son and wanted to heal my back. I wanted to believe that it was his sincere desire to show his love in this way.

But the battle raged…

They probably prayed over me for a good 10 minutes or longer. I lost track. Slowly I began to feel the tension and pain melt away. Yet I still fought it. Was this just me tricking myself? Was this the real thing? Would it last for ten minutes only to be replaced by disappointment?

A different type of healing took place that night as well, a healing of my heart.

I desperately prayed that God would heal my unbelief. I was bawling. And not the quaint, few tears rolling down your cheeks, “this person is clearly moved by the spirit”, type of crying in the midst of prayer. I was a snotty mess.

Towards the end I could hear God’s voice moving in my heart. “I love you. I am going to heal your back tonight and show you what I am capable of. But I need your help with something in the coming weeks. I need to you to stop treating my healing and love like a status update. Your back will be sore again at some point. You are human. There will be days you do yard work and have tension in your shoulders afterwards. There will be nights you sleep funny and wake up sore. That doesn’t mean I didn’t heal you. I need you to believe fully. Stay with me.”

My back felt so much better. The pain was virtually gone. Throughout the night I felt spiritual warfare taking place in my back. There were moments of slight tension where minor pain resurfaced and my old human nature would want to creep back in, “Oh no, maybe…” and I would feel God whispering in my ear, “Stay with me. Stay with me. Don’t give in.”

I was exhausted when I fell asleep Friday night. Just totally spent.

The next morning I woke up and was almost confused. There wasn’t any pain…anywhere. Not even a slight discomfort. It was just gone. Even when my back is doing well, I always hurt in the mornings. The degree of the pain varies, but I can’t remember the last morning I woke up pain free. It was at least 10 years ago.

I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I almost immediately felt the tug of, “When is the next shoe going to drop? When is this reverting back to normal?” and I felt that gentle whisper, “Stay with me. Stay with me. Just enjoy it for now.”

I had such and amazing day with God on Saturday. My wife and I did a decent amount of yard work, cleaning of the shed, etc. There was some normal soreness by the end of the day, but no more than you would expect from a normal back after a day of work and I continued to feel that nudge, “Stay with me. This is normal. You are human. Your muscles will be sore from time to time. Don’t give the enemy a foothold. Don’t let your faith be shaken. I am still here.”

I also felt him telling me, “It is ok to want to do your part. I want you to take care of your body. I want you to have good habits. I want you to do all of the little things you know would make a difference. Just remember, healing comes from me. Just remember, that you can approach me with your requests before you feel like you have earned them. Just remember that I love you. Remember Friday night always.”

My back has continued to feel significantly better than the previous several months. In moments of stress I still feel the tension in my shoulders and back. However, now, it is a beautiful reminder to turn those items causing me stress over to God. It is a beautiful reminder that I am striving a bit too hard without allowing God to help shoulder the burden. It reminds me that Jesus wants us to take his yoke upon us. He wants to give me rest.

It reminds me of Friday night.

Our God heals.

Thought to ponder

Where have I struggled to pray for healing because I don’t feel that I deserve it? Is it physical healing? Healing of a relationship? An addiction? Forgiveness that I want to give to another but have been unable to fully give? God wants you to come before him and have faith that he is a loving father capable of all things.

Faith the size of a mustard seed

Daily Readings: Exodus 1-2, Proverbs 4, Matthew 17

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

-Matthew 17:20

Faith the size of a mustard seed is a concept that can frequently be a stumbling block for many Christians today. I have often had a hard time wrapping my mind around the miraculous works that God does in our lives and through our lives. Where this struggle becomes particularly pronounced for me is when I am required to trust in God’s timing. In the Western World we want to take these words from Jesus and change it slightly. We prefer the version of the verse that goes a little something like this:

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move…immediately upon the snap of your fingers!”

We want our faith to result in magic trick style miracles. We want miracles that can clearly be seen as supernatural in the moment that they occur. The man was blind one moment and the very next moment his sight returns! A dear friend had a serious medical condition and then it was gone without explanation!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have known many people personally that have experienced these types of miracles in their own lives. It is amazing to see God work in these ways and nothing short of awe inspiring when it happens! God wants us to pray with conviction for the miraculous.

However, God’s miraculous works in our lives are not always instantaneous. Sometimes they take place overs years or even decades. Occasionally the miracle is instantaneous…but not until a significant time later. We saw this back on Day 9 with the story of Abraham and Sarah. The moment Sarah became pregnant was a an unexplainable, instantaneous, medical miracle…that they had to wait 25 years for. How is our faith when we are made to wait? How is our faith when we are required to truly let go of our plan in a given situation and trust that God has a much bigger plan than we can ever comprehend?

Faith the size of a mustard seed.

I think we would all prefer a setup where we are allowed to have faith the size of a mountain…for 6-12 hours!

Jesus wants us to simply have faith the size of a mustard seed…that has staying power! Faith that withstands the storms in our life. Faith that is unwavering even if the outcomes of our prayers don’t go exactly the way we expect. Faith that embraces that God’s plan is frequently a marathon and not a sprint.

That is the type of faith I know that I want in my life!

Thought to ponder

In what areas of my life have I tried to put God into a box and wanted him to answer my prayers on my terms and on my timeline?

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