Help my unbelief!


Give flight to your faith. -- Pic from Amazon Trippic

Give flight to your faith. — Pic from Amazon Trippic

A most poignant vignette is the piteous youth, convulsing on the ground in a seizure, foaming at the mouth. His father clutches tragically to a faith that slips from his heart like water from your fingers.

from pinterest

from pinterest

‘If you can’? Everything is possible for him who believes, Jesus mildly admonishes floundering belief.

Realizing his evaporating faith spells continued sickness for his son, the desperate father clasps desperately for a miracle. Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” — Mark 9:24 NIV.

No scripture captures humanity’s condition better.

from Pinteret

from Pinteret

The atheist refuses to believe. The materialist doesn’t care to believe. The Christian struggles to believe. Lack of belief is essentially an insult to God. It is calling Him a liar. And yet it is essentially human. We call God a liar because we say, when we won’t believe, that His word, which declares God’s will to heal, is a lie.

prayblackbusinessmanPrayer is struggle. Don’t get down on yourself for fighting for faith. Think of yourself as an athlete training, building the muscle of faith. Keep trying to believe more. Cast out the spirit of condemnation which accuses: “You don’t have enough faith! That’s why you’re sick.” It is easy for the muscleman to lift. The scrawny guy must work towards the goal slowly, progressively.

Sometimes too, God sovereignly does not bow to our every desire. Give no room to condemnation for an opportunity gone by where a sick or loved one passed on. It wasn’t your lack of faith; it was God’s will.

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19 responses to “Help my unbelief!

  1. Beautiful post. Thank you.

  2. Absolutely beautiful! Thank you! THIS is encouragement!

  3. Hello, thanks for liking a post on my blog. I am an atheist and I do not “refuse to believe”. This is a common Christian claim that atheists only are “rebelling” and that we “really” know that this god exists. I have no reason to believe in the Christian god, as I will guess you claim you have no reason to believe in Vishnu or Allah or the Great Spirit. I was a Christian, was losing my faith and prayed to god and read the bible. I asked for help. And got none. This would mean your post is flawed and does not represent reality. I am wondering what your claims would be in this case. Would you blame me for not praying in the “right” way? If so, would you venture what the right way is? Would you claim I wasn’t “sincere” enough? How does one tell without making a circular argument? Does God not want to answer for some reason, perhaps Romans 9, where your god picks and chooses who to bestow grace upon? Since I have no evidence of your god or any other gods, I don’t need to call your god a liar. He simply doesn’t exist. I would guess that you would say “but just look around at the universe, of course he does.” That would fail since most, if not all, religions claim the exact same thing. I would ask that you consider these questions, and also consider that you are telling falsehoods about atheists. That’s lying and bearing false witness.

    • Dear Club, I want to thank you for writing this response. Certainly you are right. When I make a terse comment about atheists, I fail to represent a gamut of thought and struggle that it encompasses. The quick contrast does not adequately represent atheists.
      In regards to your questions, I would like to say that I make no assertion about your personal experience. I make no claims to know what, if anything, went wrong (as you say). I respect atheists and hope to count many of them as my friends. I share with them, often, more than I share with most Christians because too many Christians are unthinking. I have wrestled with some of the same questions and come to the conclusion that God exists and loves me. I can only support you in your own journey. I can only extend my friendship to you and my apology to you if the laconic remark resulted objectionable. I commend you for objecting and doing so energetically. You are right to do so.
      I enjoy dialogue. In my blog, I don’t do long treatises; it’s not the genre I have chosen. But I am open to discussion.
      If we disagree about God, we can agree to study openly the question, to debate it fairly and even-handedly. We can agree to attack problems in society that we both agree on (perhaps human trafficking, for example?) What do you say? Do you accept my friendship?
      Because at the end of the day, these are just words. Many words may be spent and nothing may be accomplished. But if I get a friend, then it is worthwhile, because this side of eternity, friendship is best goal as far as I’m concerned.
      Cheers! Yours, mike

  4. Dear Club, even as Christians we too go through our own struggles and challenges. We pray ceaselessly and yet no response from God, or so we believe. Many times we pray, receive an answer, but it is not the answer we want to hear so we say that God is not listening or is failing me. We struggle with our faith and speaking for myself, I question God all the time. Yet, we are told “Come let us reason together.” In other words this relationship is a two way street and just as with any relationship, it does not always go how WE want it to go. With me, I choose to hold on to God, simply because He exists for me. Just as I never see the air that I breathe, it is there and it keeps me alive. Like God, it never fails. So, regardless of whether I believe that God has, or has not, answered my prayers, I continue to believe.

    • Pangeline, the problem is that your bible says that prayer will be answered positively and quickly. The mountain moves into the sea now, not at some time to be determined. The “door” will be opened will be opened when asked, not sometime later. Thomas gets evidence right then, not at some “later”. God supposedly is a father who would always give his son a fish that is asked for rather than a snake. And all of this indicates that either your god doesn’t exist or your holy book is wrong many many places. Modern Christians have made up the “yes”, “no” and “not yet”; that is not in the bible but it is very good for excusing a god that doesn’t exist. You all want to claim that your god has mysterious reasons in this “relationship” but have no trouble declaring you know exactly what he’s thinking when convenient. Pangelin, I used to hold onto God too and really hope it existed. But when it and its bible failed, then there was no reason to keep believingn in something that has as much evidence for it as Allah, Tezcatlipoca, Zeus or Odin. And Pang, the air exists, we can feel it, we can measure it and if it’s not there we die. It’s very real. Christians have yet to be able to show any evidence that isn’t the same stuff that other theists of other religions say. You all say “look around at the universe, *my* god did it” with no evidence. You say “my god did a miracle” and again no evidence. You say “My god is the only right one” and I’m still waiting.

      • Dear Club, Half way through your reply we became friends because most of my friends quickly call me Pang after finding Pangeline too long. I must also apologize for not replying sooner but was enjoying a little R&R to battle the challenges that 2013 will bring. And in a nutshell that is what it is really all about. Handling yourself in tough times especially when you believe that you are the only one going through such tough and catastrophic times. Yes, the Bible says that the answer will be “yes”, but it is not so easy. There are precursors for your prayers to be answered immediately. For example, 1) if you believe and do not doubt in your heart, 2) if you do not hold unforgiveness against anyone, 3) if you believe without wavering or being double-minded, 3) if you ask with a sincere heart and not asking amiss and my favorite from Hebrews, you must believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. The reason why I hold on to God is because there is nothing else for me to hold on to. Man lets me down all the time, but God doesn’t. One thing God does is remain constant. So many of my prayers have not been answered and when I look back and assess why, it is usually because of my lack of faith that God will do it or more often from not, it is my double-mindedness. It saddens me to hear that God not did give you the answers you wanted. I do not know why. Unfortunately, the relationship between you and God is a personal one that I have no privy too. I would just love for you to give it another chance. Don’t give up on God because He has not given up on you.

        • I understand the need for some R&R. I don’t believe that I’m the only one doing anything, especially when it comes to going through tough times. I have my husband, my friends, my family for that. I do not need to think that I have some imaginary being that does nothing.

          You claim that the answer will be yes, “but it’s not so easy”. Unfortuantely, Pang (I shorten long names, it doesn’t necessarily mean I consider the person a friend. I’m just lazy), the bible says it is just “that easy”. We see one qualifier from this god about how it answers requests/prayers and that’s “believe”. It is only modern Christians who make additional rules and exceptions since they know that their god does not do as it has promised and they need reasons why this might be. But, let’s look at the ones you claim are there.

          1. if you believe and do not doubt in your heart

          I agree with part of this. Belief should be essential to getting the attention of this god. I don’t contest this. I did believe and I did pray for help when I was in the process of losing my faith. I hadn’t lost it all. Still nothing. The above is the excuse of the Christian who wants to excuse their god to say someone didn’t believe “enough”. You have no measurement of what “enough” is other than the prayer didn’t get answered. It’s a false dilemma: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/false-dilemma.html . You do not consider that this god simply may not exist at all.

          2. if you do not hold unforgiveness against anyone

          Nowhere does it say that you must have this to have a prayer answered. The closest verse can come to this is Mark 11:22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” With the use of “and” the praying for the mountain to move and it moving is not dependent on forgiving anyone. One might argue the translation is wrong but in that every translation claims that they had God helping them, that can pose a problem.

          3. if you believe without wavering or being double-minded,

          Same as number 1. Consider Thomas who doubted (more on him below)

          4. if you ask with a sincere heart and not asking amiss and my favorite from Hebrews, you must believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him

          Same as number 1. All depend on you, the Christian, deciding that the only reason that the prayer was not answered is that there was some fault with the believer, that they weren’t sincere “enough”. You also try to claim, I think, that one shouldn’t ask for something this god doesn’t want when you say “not asking amiss”. In that *no* believers prayers are answered, we have only a few possibilities: No one gets prayer right, so god never answers; god is not as claimed in the Bible, or this god does not exist. If you are going to try to say your god has the out of deciding what prayers it likes and doesn’t like, then prayer is useless in asking for things. it will never matter what someone prays for since it depends on what this god already supposedly wants.

          Yes, mankind is variable and can let you down. We’re only human, as the saying goes. That does not mean that your god exists. You have made up what amounts to the perfect parent/husband. However, just because you can make one up in your mind, does not mean it exists. God doesn’t disappoint you because you excuse it by self-editing anything you say or do. You make up reasons why your god doesn’t do something because you cannot simply say “It doesn’t exist”. That’s where apologetics come from, when a Christian must excuse his god’s inaction when something horrible happens, when this god is portrayed as a violent primitive god in the bible (genocide, slavery, murder). You claim that your god is constant, but just looking at the bible, I know that isn’t so.

          You blame yourself for why your prayers aren’t answered. That’s the attitude of a abused spouse. It’s your fault that your husband hit you. If you would only be “better” he wouldn’t hit you.

          You don’t have to be sad that your god failed in what you and your bible claim it will do. I know why I got no response; that’s what happens when one thinks imaginary beings do anything. They do nothing since they don’t exist. You claim that the relationship is a personal one that you are not privy to. Well, that doesn’t’ quite work when you claim you know why people’s prayers fail. You claim complete knowledge here and then when it comes to my particular problem, you say “Golly, I just can’t answer that.” You already have said that I must be doubtful, insincere, double-minded, didn’t’ diligently seek him and am holding a grudge. Those were your excuses for why someone doesn’t get a prayer answered and thus they must apply to me. However, since I have been sincere, I have believed fully in this god, I have asked for help for forgiving people, and had no doubts, then what? This god is still silent. I’m sure you’ll still claim that I “really” wasn’t any of these things but you have no more than the same false dilemma, that the *only* answer to your god’s silence is that I’m at fault.

          Think about it this way. I’m a doubting thomas, and JC himself supposedly gave Thomas evidence and accepted him as saved (yes it’s supposedly better to believe without evidence but asking for evidence won’t damn anyone). I am in my late 40s. When will this god get around to me *if* it is real? It should know what I need to believe and there is no good reason to delay showing me this. Again, there is nothing in the bible to support your excuses. So I’m still waiting.

          Finally, you say you really like the bit from Hebrews. Did you also notice that Paul says that it is *impossible* for anyone who was a believer and fell away to be redeemed? Impossible for an omniscient and omnipotent being? Omnipotence doesn’t work like that. Anything an omnipotent being doesn’t do is because it doesn’t want to do it. In this, it appears your god gives up for no good reason. Claiming that God giving up gives Paul the excuse of blaming the believer who has fallen away and ignoring the other answer, God doesn’t exist.

          I hope this gives you something to consider. May 2013 be good for all of us.

  5. Wonderful posting. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hello Mike,
    Thank you for responding and realizing that you misrepresented atheists. You have made assertions about atheists in general, and that does, by default, include me and my personal experience. You have assumed wrongly that atheists do not want to know and my existence and efforts show that your assumption was wrong.

    I agree that you have no ability to say what’s went wrong when I lost my faith and this god has been nowhere to be found. However, I have had plenty of Christians who have insisted that they did know, that I didn’t pray “right” that I was not “sincere” enough, etc. The bible itself says that nothing should be going wrong at all, unless one agrees with Romans 9, that your god does damn some by refusing his grace to them, thus daming them for no fault of their own.

    I do wonder how you claim to respect atheists when you make such terse comments about them. Your claim was not simply laconic, it was wrong, having no basis in fact, and therefore a lie. That shows no respect at all, making such baseless generalities in an attempt make your religion seem better. Many Christians claim that God exists and loves them, it’s nothing new. I felt the same when I believed, and I believed it with no evidence only from what people I had real reasons to trust told me. I have yet to see that it was true for me or is true for you. A lot of children think that Santa Claus loves them too.

    You also seem to think other Christians are “unthinking”. Do you think they are wrong? I would then ask you to show me how you know? I was Presbyeterian, are you of any specific sect?

    We can indeed address problems that humanity has, human trafficking, equality for everyone, etc. However, what you might think of as a perfectly fine god-approved thing is not a problem at all, where I might, say with equality of women or equality of homosexuals. Also, with a theist, there is an assumption that their god is doing something too, yes? Or that if it is not doing something, there is a reason for its inaction and its allowing bad things to continue? That’s is where I have problems in working with theists including Christians and where I question the honesty in interfaith groups. Each religion is sure that those who do not believe as they do are going to be either dead or damned. It’s not exactly the best basis for friendship, in my opinion. Friendship is indeed one of the best goals on this side of eternity. It’s the beliefs in some other side that I have my doubts about.

    I have no problem with being friends and I will work with you on things we agree on. To me, that demonstrates that your religion is no better than my lack of such. We’re just decent, empathic human beings.

    later!

    • Hi Club, Thanks for the positive response. Again sorry for a quick-and-easy foil that resulted inaccurate. I will write a post about demonizing the opposition, a very common, though fallacious, rhetorical device. Stay tuned.
      In regards to believing in Santa Claus, I don’t think there were any followers who were willing to die for him, all alone, divided from each other. The testimony of the disciples is compelling. They were uneducated — unable to dream up such an incredible lie as the life and death of Jesus. They had fear before the resurrection, bravery afterward. They gave their lives for Christ because they knew that death was not final because they had seen Christ resurrected.
      As to a good God not stopping bad things in the world, the bad things happen at the hands of bad people. People blame God for not taking control, but everybody seems to enjoy their freedom of will, and they don’t surrender it to God. God gave man free will, and He doesn’t go back on that. I guess this is a thorny issue, but I think that if people want God to intervene and prevent bad things from happening, that would mean humanity’s loss of free will basically.
      I hope these comments help!
      Yours, Mike

      • Mike, I’ve seen the claim that “since people were willing to die for God/Jesus then it’s real”. That might work if no other religion’s followers did the exact same thing. Heaven’s Gate, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists (though they don’t always have a god to call on), etc have all died for their religious beliefs and have died alone. Does that make all of those beleifs as real as Christianity? There is no reason to think that the disciples couldn’t make up stories, there were plenty of stories about other gods around then, some who had “sons”. Believers give their lives because they hope that there is something else, not that they know. There is nothign that special about the life and death of Jesus. Plenty of messiahs at that time, plenty martyrs, plenty claims of miracles. Acts has this in it if you want a biblical source. As for the apostles having fear before the resurrection and bravery after, well, that’s the story isn’t it, but any evidence of any of the apostles even existing or doing miracles as claimed? No, we only find more stories.
        As for bad things happening because of bad people, yep, and no god to do anything different than a non-existent god would. You claim free will, as many Christians do. Unfortuantely, for free will to work, we have to have no miracles at all, no intervention from God and we know that from the supposed beginning of time, that hasn’t happened, not according to Christianity. If your bible is to be believed, this god removed free will from people repeatedly. The pharoah, the egyptian people, anyone he intervened in a war against, anyone who would have profited from the death of someone he raised. This god killed people directly, a complete abrogatioan of anyone’s free will. This god says that putting your faith completely in it is the only way, that one should never worry or think to provide for one’s self, since this god takes care of the lilies and the birds. Now, I do agree that Paul changed this since the lack of a quick return by the supposed messiah makes it a bit hard to keep the religion going. There is no “god helps those who help themselves” in the bible. It’s only obedience and faith.
        I’ve been doing this for quite a while so I have seen a lot of the same arguments before.

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