help my unbelief

praying-handsI do believe; help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).

That verse was always confusing until I went through an experience that made it come alive for me. I was praying one night and my thoughts wandered to my financial situation – which had improved tremendously over the course of the prior year, but was still somewhat tenuous at the time.

Gradually, I became gripped with fear that I would end up back where I had been and that potential shattered me. I began bawling and begging God not to let it happen. Having come so far, the thought of regressing was terrifying. It had been hard enough the first time and, as grateful as I was to have gone through that trial and to have grown in that area, I had no desire to revisit those difficult days.

Finally recognizing the fear for what it was, I set my mind on these Truths: the Lord had already brought me through that season; if His will was for me to take a similar path, He would provide once again; and He was currently supplying my needs on a daily basis, so I needn’t worry.

But even with the volume of Truth and vast experiences of His faithfulness on my side, I could still feel a significant part of myself holding onto the fear. As I grappled with this, God brought the verse to mind: I do believe; help my unbelief. Suddenly I understood what the despairing father must have been going through . . . the intellectual belief was there – his head was totally on board – but the emotional belief was lagging behind and being tempted to give in to doubt.

In my own journey, I’ve learned that it’s rarely my head that trips me up – it’s usually my heart. Because of woundedness from my childhood, I developed a deep-seated distrust of male authority figures by learning the hard way that they were often unreliable.

By the time I became a Christian, I was so emotionally disconnected that I really had no concept I was subconsciously projecting the same distrust onto God. As far as I could tell, I trusted Him with my “whole” heart, but my heart was so very far from whole. The reality was that my understanding of my own heart was so superficial that my “deep” trust barely penetrated the surface layer.

Belief can be deceptive that way. What we think (or what we think we think, more likely) is not as important as what we do. It’s our actions that determine what we actually hold to be true because they are directed by our core beliefs, not our minds.

I spent the first 19 years of my Christian life “knowing” full well that the Lord loved me and called me worthy by His grace, but the choices I made and the actions I took betrayed wholly opposite beliefs. It required all those years of gradual groundwork, leading up to one final life-altering spiritual intervention by God (more on that in a subsequent post), to put my addiction and unworthiness issues behind me for good.

In a single moment that felt as powerful and personally transformative as the proverbial Big Bang, my heart finally embraced what my head had known all along.

While my lack of faith in those areas was quenched that day, life is a journey and the mini-crisis I shared at the beginning happened more recently. That night a much smaller transformation took place as I armed my mind with the Truth (I do believe) and actively surrendered my financial fears to Him (help my unbelief). Thankfully those worries were never realized, but at that point I would have been fine either way.

Since then, I have prayerfully kept watch for those areas where the things my mind knows are out of sync with my behavior and have asked the Lord to help my unbelief any number of times with various issues. Recognizing and acknowledging the disconnects have been at least half the battle, but God has made that longest of 18-inch treks like a bullet train instead of a buggy ride in my life . . .
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