Dr. Doolittle, the classic children’s book, tells the story about the British veterinarian who had an array of exotic animals. And how he learned to speak to them in their own animal language.
Included in his menagerie was a Pushmi-pullyu ((pronounced “push-me—pull-you”) with two heads, one on each end of its body. It was a cross between a gazelle and a unicorn, although in the movie it’s pictured as a llama. The two heads had a mind of their own. And sometimes they opposed each other, which resulted in a tug of war.
In the same way, we may experience conflicting feelings in our Christian walk. Sometimes our values clash with our feelings. Our fleshly desires battle against our spiritual beliefs. And our faith may find itself struggling with opposing forces of doubt.
In Mark 9 we read of such a predicament. A man with a demon-possessed son came seeking Jesus for help. But Jesus was on the mountain top with Peter, James and John. So, he asked the other nine disciples if they could heal the boy, but they could not.
When Jesus returned to the commotion that arose as a result, He rebuked the disciples, then turned to the father. The man begged, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us.” (v.22)
Jesus responded, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (v. 23)
In tears the father cried out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (v.24)
The father’s profound response was incredibly transparent. He wanted to believe, but had doubts. His faith had been shaken. He came to Jesus for help and healing, but there was that nagging “IF” in his mind. His struggle was real. His mind was conflicted. And heart was afflicted. And his answer was authentic.
Have you ever felt like this father? But were afraid to admit it?
Too often in our fellowship we make folks feel like something is wrong with them if they express doubts. Good young people have been driven away from the church who asked serious, sincere questions, but were given pat answers. Or even told “You know better than that.” Or “You know what we believe.”
While the Bible commands that we “bear one another’s burdens,” it requires courage to admit that you’ve got a problem. That you’re struggling with your faith. Or failing in your marriage. Our wrestling with the lure of a fleshly lust.
We believe. But we need help dealing with the doubts that can creep into our minds and hearts. What can we do?
(1) Admit it. Nothing is ever solved until we come to grips with the challenge we face. Own up to your struggle.
(2) Pray about it. Cast your burden upon the Lord. He knows. He hears. He cares. And He will give you strength.
(3) Ask for help. Find a fellow Christian you can trust, who’s spiritually mature and scripturally grounded who will listen, offer wise counsel, and lovingly stand by you.
(4) Get into the Word.
D. L. Moody expressed the value of Bible study this way.
“I prayed for faith and thought that someday faith would come down and strike me like lightening. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, “Now faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” I had closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since.
(5) Focus on Jesus.
Read the biographies of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Study John’s gospel of evidence “that you may believe.” These will draw you closer to Jesus. To his ministry. His mission. And His message. And help grow your faith.
(6) Get good Bible study material that is faith strengthening. There is a wealth of devotional material and evidence resources that will help you overcome doubts and reassure you.
Finally, don’t allow your doubts to discourage and defeat you. Be advised, as the theologian Paul Tillich opined, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.”
“Lord, help my unbelief.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman