image by Behzad Ghaffarian from Unsplash
Recently I've been going through the miracles of Jesus with my Sunday School class, specifically people that Jesus healed.
We discussed leprosy, resurrection from the dead, the lack of love that the judgmental Pharisees showed in their indifference to the radical, wonderful change that Jesus worked in the sufferer's lives, and the parallels between Christ's power to save, not only from physical ailments, but from our spiritual state.
In Mark 9:14-29 we get some quite specific detail on this particular case of demon possession, yet precisely because of that it was a challenging lesson to teach. It was hard to explain, because I didn't have all the answers; how did the demon possession happen? why don't we hear about that many people being demon possessed nowadays? why does foam come out of your mouth during a fit? (I had never thought of that before, and had to google it)
I found the symptoms of the boy, however, were a striking analogy to help us understand how we ourselves are enslaved by the power of sin. If you read the passage, the description sounds frightening; but also familiar. We are powerless to gain control over ourselves, despite our good intentions; sin controls us, the way the boy was unable to control his muscles, which often went rigid so that he could not even stand. Sin drives us relentlessly towards our own destruction, even if we have both our eyes open, even if we know the danger; the same way the boy would fling himself into the fire, into the water, repeatedly endangering himself. And, like how he was unable to hear or speak, sin makes us spiritually dead, unable to respond to or understand spiritual things.
Coming from such a state, the change that takes place when we are saved becomes all the more radical--and seems all the more impossible, even. In the process of our salvation, it definitely seems impossible. I remember how frustrated and despairing I felt then. I wanted so much to believe, yet it wasn't something you could achieve through sheer willpower--another major lesson which until I grasped it held back much of my spiritual growth.
The process of coming to faith is often a conflicted, even anguished one. It's seldom a flip-the-switch, 180 degrees change, in the sense that it doesn't just automatically take place once you first find yourself wanting it. It can be a long, conflicted journey of wanting to believe, struggling to, feeling at once how impossible it is and yet also how much you desire it. And ontop of that, feeling unworthy, unsure, even guilty because why is it so hard? why can't you just 'psycho yourself' into it since you want it that much?
Learning to trust is so difficult as an adult. Which is why they always use children as an example.
And that was exactly the father's situation. He wanted to believe Jesus could heal his son. Oh, he wanted to so badly.
Yet he struggled with so many complex reasons that made it seem impossible. Despair. Great grief and suffering. Hopelessness. Cynicism. Disappointing and disillusioning experiences (think the disciples who brashly thought they could heal the boy) Such that even with Jesus right in front of him, he could only manage a last desperate, despairing appeal: "if You can do anything...have compassion on us."
How many similar such reasons do we struggle with, when it comes to having greater faith? when it comes to trusting what God's will is for us?
But we don't have to wait until we feel our faith is "strong" enough--we don't have to feel like we're not ready, or not worthy, because we're still struggling with doubts. He knows our hearts. The sign of the spirit's work in us is often as simple as that--the desire to trust, to believe, more than we currently do. The desire to overcome that cynicism or doubt or pride or whatever it is that is holding us back. The desire to believe.
The faith that we need can be as simple as coming to Him, doubts and failures and all, in the hope that though we haven't sorted it out yet, though we're a mess of conflicted thoughts and feelings, though we're still struggling, He knows that our desire to believe in Him, to trust Him, is greater. And that not only does He understand, He has compassion. That fulfilling in us what we lack, He will save us.
"I believe; help my unbelief..."
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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