Help My Unbelief

The cry of the father of the demon possessed child echoes in my head, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Almost every day I encounter doubts and delusions that make me question who God is and how he thinks about me.

The unbelief in our lives can be a failure to trust with your mind that he has a perfect plan or that he can work things out for good, even when there’s a bedrock of belief in your heart that he is the Savior.

In only a couple months overseas I’ve lost my grandma, a friend from high school and my bag with everything in it was stolen (laptop, license, journal, keys). The weight of darkness sometimes presses in on me from every angle - my own circumstances, my friends rejection of Jesus, my rationality about his love in the midst of global suffering and homelessness I pass everyday.

Sometimes I try to shove my questions down my throat by consuming the fresh fruits of his promises to me. That he desires all people (1 Timothy 2:4), that he listens to me (1 John 5:14), that he's given up everything for me (Romans 8:32), that he loves me (Isaiah 43:3). These nuggets of truth feed my heart, but my mind still boggles in unrest. How can I believe he loves everyone if there are many who will never be able to know or accept this love?

I know that I follow a God who's ways are higher than mine and love deeper than I can fathom. It boils down to two principle questions for me. What does it mean when the bible says believe and be saved (Romans 10:9)? How can I combat any disbelief that the enemy throws at me?

It's hard to remember that we’re in a constant spiritual war. It's easy to see daily mishaps as misfortunes (sometimes they are, the enemy doesn’t deserve even all the credit), but often there is no coincidence that when God is using us in extraordinary ways there is a push back in other areas of our life.

Doubt is not inherently bad in itself.

Doubt can push believers to seek answers and strive to know God more. But doubt can also be a tool of darkness when used to question the Father’s character and whether he really promised these things. Back in Genesis, Eve doubted (Genesis 3:1) and from then on there has been an enmity between the children of God and those of the serpent. Whether we like it or not we are on one side or the other.

So can belief trump doubt? Now the way I grew up defining belief in God could not triumph over my fear of him. Yes I believed there had to be a God and I’d been taught that Jesus died for me, but that “belief” did not penetrate every area of my life. I feared that I would break the “rules” of the bible as in getting drunk or sexual immorality. I also feared that he was going to cause loss and suffering and that he did what was best for himself regardless of how it hurt me. I spent time serving, went to youth and bible studies and on the weekends I bent the rules in my favor so that others would approve of me if God did not. So did I actually believe in God or was I just believing lies about who he really is?

The dictionary talks about belief in three ways. 1. Accepting something exists without proof. This seems to be an easy one for most people. Everyone wants to believe this earth isn't all there is and that there is a god somewhere doing something. There are many social and cultural incentives to believing in God in America. 2. Something one accepts as true. Based on history we can justify that Jesus truly was real, but whether he is the Truth that brings salvation is another story. Maybe we know we are sinful and so this concept of him cleansing our sin sounds like something we want to accept as true. 3. Trust, faith or confidence in. This last definition of belief is the place where I think many people who grow up in the church, but don't seem to care much for God, may not have reached in their belief. This definition requires surrender of everything as if I put all my confidence in one thing it cannot be in anything else.

If I put this last definition into action that means that my whole life must radically change because the object of my belief now commands my complete trust. If I held my belief to be absolutely true then I must let it have absolutely all of me. For example, if I believed kale absolutely prevents cancer then I would eat it every day in everything and try to feed it to all my friends. I wouldn't just eat it once a week or casually mention it prevents it. Even if I doubted the science behind it or that it was really doing anything based on my inability to see the prevention in my life, I wouldn't stop eating it if it was proven to be true.

The proof in our faith comes from the resurrection of Christ and the belief is that he accomplished this so we may have a relationship with him for the rest of eternity.

So belief is not based upon my current feelings toward God, but a resting in what I know to be true.

Therefore, we can combat the spiritual darkness the enemy throws at us in doubt by letting the Father first know how we feel and telling him what we don’t understand in prayer. We can ask him to give us discernment of what may be lies and then confess to our siblings in Christ who will remind us of his love and truth.

Doubting is okay because your decision to believe cannot change. Once we are sealed with our salvation (Ephesians 1:13) he doesn't expect us to be perfect or have it all together, he just expects us to come to him with our brokenness and questions knowing that he can restore us and will continue mending us until we are complete in heaven.

Sometimes people throw scripture as if it’s the bandage to cover up bleeding. But for the truth that “all things are working together for good” to saturate I must begin with saturating in the truth that the Father himself is good. We must go to the root of our doubts. God doesn't always look so good when a mother loses her baby or a friend struggles with worth or the news reports another attack. Where is his goodness in these things? And thus, we must surely all grapple with some form of doubt in his goodness and compassion upon us at some time or we must not be aware of suffering.

After we present our frustrations of the evil that rules this world then we can cling to the only hope we have - that we are children of God through Christ and there will be a day when we will no longer suffer or cry even though we may not be able to visually see or imagine that in our present circumstances (Hebrews 11:1). He uses all suffering to further his purposes for our good (in becoming more Christ-like) and for his glory.

Our faith is not a blind trust alone, it is based on the rational promises of God revealed in him sending the real Jesus and proving he loved us by sending the wrath of our evil onto him instead of us and Jesus raising again in victory. Not only is this faith rational, but it’s emotional in how much joy he gives us if we believe it to be true and it will physically change our response to opposition.

Belief is a decision that when chosen changes everything.

So seeking answering in suffering, seeking comfort from friends, seeking purpose when feeling confused are all okay, but ultimately we have to cry out immediately first to the Creator. If we believe holds everything together then we need him to be our help. No matter what our heads may argue, that can't change the way he’s radically changes lives and shown his love to be true.

The Drive for Dependence

I absolutely love to dream about the future (this statement is no surprise to anyone who has talked to me for longer than 30 minutes). My mind often strays from my exams and meditates on how I can save up for a trip when I graduate or a new camera lens or the career that I desire. When I think about a couple years from now I picture myself living international, possibly with a family, taking photos and writing for a magazine. I like to think about all the things I need to do in order to make this dream a reality.

Suddenly, the other day my laptop crashes and the small trivial moment of thousands of dollars going toward a new one snaps me back into this present moment. This day is now consumed with finals, packing to wrap up the school year, work and other many daily tasks. I’m now incapable of handling the momentary circumstance because I was so flustered with how this situation was going to ruin the future. In this scenario, I am so out of control. I then balance wondering how God could possibly care about such a first world problem in comparison to the size of his glory of his kingdom. But trying to push my feeling deeper inside myself, only allows other anxieties to surface.

Thus the start of me relearning a valuable lesson about my relationship with God, that I must be extremely dependent on him.

A normal day consists of me doing a lot of activities that don’t require me to consult God. I pray often, but obviously not the daily face-to-the-ground-full-surrender type of prayer because I often feel sufficient. I have deceived myself into believing that I while I need God’s guidance for the bigger picture, I have the means to get myself through the day to day.



My perspective is rather arrogant for who am I to say I have the ability to handle this day when I do not know what tomorrow brings or even can confidently say that I will have tomorrow (James 4:13-15). If it’s impossible for our finite minds to predict the future, how can we possibly rely on our own strength to get through today?

I personally hate the idea of being needy and letting others do things for me. People often prove unreliable (myself included). While I think it’s great to trust everyone has the best intentions, we must acknowledge how forgettable humans are. We often overstuff our schedules until we are bound to forget to do something for someone. Being constantly surrounded by the undependable nature of humans, it's hard to remember that our God is fully dependable. God’s dependability is especially difficult to grasp when it seems easier to quickly handle a situation yourself instead of taking the time to consult God.

Often I think of 1 Thessalonians 4:12, “so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” to back up my reasoning that I should be independent. The mentality of this verse for me translates to “I’ll do what’s best for me and you do you.” But this is not what Paul means by this verse.

The church was made to function as a body, together.

He calls the Thessalonians to work hard at what they’re best at and not to exploit the wealthy. Paul certainly does not mean work independently and do whatever floats your own boat. We are not superhumans with the capability to thrive alone, but we were made to work collectively while depending on God instead of trying to provide for ourselves or by contrast lazily waiting for other believers to provide the means for us.

American’s thrive on this concept of individualism. Our schools push us towards this individualistic attitude. If students want to succeed then they must put in the effort to make good grades on their own merit. The business world pushes individualism. To have a successful career may require outperforming coworkers who are up for the same position.

Independence can teach us that we are fit to run the world in a way that fits the ideal in our head. Independence means organizing everything to flow according to how we like it and while we may care for others, the ultimate goal is to fulfill whatever plans we designed for ourselves whenever our brains developed enough to create these plans. With hearts that are so fickle, how could we expect the plans we designed to be constant. Our desires change daily and yet we still will choose our own way of life over the path of following Christ. 

Dependence can teach us that while we aren't fit to run the world, we have a God who is. Dependence means recognizing who designed our very brains before the beginning of time, a God who has all knowledge, all power and who's plans never change. 

John 15 talks about abiding in Jesus, that we are unable to bear fruit alone. Abiding is not something we chose to do, but what we have to do. Dependence directly correlates with abiding. When we are with Jesus daily, we are able to remember he’s the first one we need to go to in order to be able to handle every daily circumstance. We have to depend on him or else our achievements will delude us into self-sufficiency and when the storm begins to blow we won’t have a firm foundation to get us through.  

The vine that connects us to Jesus is not imprisoning either, it is beautifully dressed and abundant with the fruit of life. By desiring independence from God, we become the little grape that jumps off the tree to be “free” and ends up rotting away in the ground. We were designed to be a part of the tree and to follow in His purpose (Proverbs 19:21).

Dependence reminds us what this relationship with Jesus is all about. If we don’t depend on God, who do we depend on? Our own talents, performance, abilities, and grades or perhaps friends and family.

If we don’t depend on God, where does our trust lie? Do we believe he is incapable of providing everything we could ever want or need?

If we don’t depend on God, have we ever given our lives to him to begin with? The ultimate sin in the bible is idolizing other things instead of relying that the one true God is enough.

Dependence reveals hearts that seek his help first in prayer when problems arise and his opinion last before making a big decision. We seek him because he is a beautiful and wonderful Father that we desire to follow.

Ultimately when we are depending on God, we will be given a spirit that delights daily. When you look at Father of the entire universe and see how he cares so intimately for EVERY single thing that happens to you, you recognize that you can trust him to deliver you every time. Resting in the truth about dependence will bring peace beyond doubt.

Growing in the Garden

I'm not sure what I was expecting for orientation week, but it was beautiful and a bit tiring at once. This week was mainly about getting to know each other and to get an glimpse of what this summer will be like most specifically New York. We heard short sessions on the word, prayer, testimonies and community.

I didn't think community as something that could happen all at once, but I've already found myself praising God for the friendships that are already beginning to bloom. I can't wait to discover aspects of Gods character reflected in the many faces I will come to know better. My apartment mates in themselves are a blessing. We have already had multiple jam sessions and 1/4 of us conquered the rock at Eno river. Everyone has this delight to know the Lord and having that joy surrounding me every single day is just a true glimpse of heaven.

But, being surrounded by so many strong believers has been tough at the same time when the sin of comparison comes rushing in. I found myself internally trying to impress and please those around me instead of directing my focus to Christ. That is just the devil trying to shatter the unity we have by making us feel down when really were all different, but also fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who loves us.

On Friday we all were fasting and we went to Duke Gardens where Jesus took us on a date. This week I learned all about how Jesus is the one who takes the first move to reconcile with us. He reached out to us while we were still lost and repeatedly betraying him over and over again. He called my name and ran after me to save me. It was easy to get lost in the garden with all the different paths you could take, but even when I didn't know where I was exactly or where I was going it didn't matter because I was in the presence of God. The king of the universe was guiding me and the more lost I became the more I would discover hidden pockets of beautiful flowers.

While his presence always dwells around me, it was wonderful spending peace time with Jesus one on one for a few hours. We read through Psalm 73 and it really hit me in a new way than before. I often fall into the trap of keeping my own heart clean in self-righteousness. As if I can lift myself up by doing good. Jesus shatters that for me. Good things for the wrong reasons are equally sinful because there is always an ounce of pride. Luckily I have a Father that is so intimate to me that he lets me call him Daddy, He guides me to what is true and points me to the everlasting. It's easy to try and forget the sin you had before salvation, but remembering the debts you had is the essence of gratitude toward our Father for redeeming us of all that. Even being saved as a child before my salvation I was born dead in my trespasses and I can't forget what he saved me from.

It's tempting to look at the world and think we are missing out on something. The whole grass is greener on the other side. But what is greater than any grass is the evergreen land flowing of milk and honey in the one true promise land above. How can I turn my back on my savior thinking that He won't provide all things abundantly and more if He already gave up His Son for me! The only thing I am bringing to my salvation is my sin. Even in the few minutes in the word I would get distracted constantly. He loves me knowing I will fail on earth consistently and counts me blameless.He saved me despite my inability to focus on him alone for even an hour.

Isn't that mind blowing that I'm so tied to the world that I can't even focus all my energy and thoughts completely toward the Creator of the Universe!

I learned this week that Jesus was Plan A for God to redeem his children. I never would have thought that sending your son to die for the world would be Gods plan the whole time, I always thought of it as a last resort to our consistent disobedience that always fell short. But no, since the beginning of time He planned to send Jesus to unite all through his name, to be the ultimate savior. He planned to extend that love and sacrifice to bring his children to him the whole time.

I learned during fasting that the only nourishment I need is from his word. That hunger pains point be back to a God who satisfies more than food. He is the bread of life. This past year food has been one thing that enslaves me easily without my realization of it because it's a necessity, but it's not to be put before God. All good things can be abused when you put them in your thoughts above the one who deserves all your attention.

Finally at church I learned the power of prayer. Prayer is a blessing, it is direct correspondence to God that people who don't know him don't have. He also answers all prayer which I kind of knew, but I never really thought about expecting movement immediately from God. He promises that if we ask anything in Jesus' name he will do it. Answered prayer is the greatest testimony that is often overlooked. Prayer and connection to our Father is the most powerful tool we have above all else. And he always answers- giving us what we asked or what we would have asked for if we knew what he knew.

The gardens was a time of repentance, but also renewal. He restores me completely and he forgives me. The birds were singing his praises, the children's laughter lifted him on high and I couldn't help but join in relaxing in awe in his beauty.