I have never been a fan of trust falls. If you aren’t familiar with trust falls, these are exercises in which one person stands with their back toward their partner who is expected to catch them when they fall backward.
These exercises are done sometimes just for fun or to create trust between co-workers or other groups of people. Whenever I’ve done a trust fall, I always tend to chicken out when it comes to falling backward. I know that my partner will catch me, and I believe that they will, but I struggle to trust that they will do so. What I lack in these moments is faith. Faith in my partner and faith that I won’t go crashing to the ground when I fall.
No matter if you are new to Christianity or have been a believer for a long time, you’re probably familiar with the word “faith.” When we open up the Bible, we see this word repeated all the way through. But what is faith? Faith involves knowledge, belief, and trust. To have a relationship with God we must know, believe, and trust in who He is. We must know, believe, and trust in the gospel—that forgiveness from sin is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These elements of faith all come together at the time of salvation. But these elements of faith also continue as we live the Christian life.
As believers, we daily exercise our faith in Christ by knowing, believing, and trusting in God and His Word. The knowledge aspect of faith can sometimes be easier than belief and trust. We might know a lot about who God is but struggle to believe and trust in who God is when suffering comes. Or maybe we can know the gospel and believe the truths of the gospel but have a hard time trusting in the gospel when we struggle with sin.
This difficulty we can experience to believe and trust often leads to shame. When our faith is weak, we might believe that God is upset with us. We might read the moments in the Gospels when Jesus rebukes His disciples for having little faith (Mark 4:40, Matthew 16:8) and worry that He is doing the same thing with us. The more we sit in our shame, the more we can shrink away from God. We can convince ourselves that we cannot come close to God unless our faith is strong once again. But this kind of thinking does not find its grounding in Scripture. While the Bible does encourage us to have a bold and steady faith, it does not tell us to have perfect faith.
How Mark 9 encourages us when our faith is weak
One of my favorite stories in Scripture that speaks to this reality comes from Mark 9:14–27. Mark 9:14 picks up right after the Mount of Transfiguration, where Jesus reveals His glory to James, John, and Peter. It is there that they also see Moses and Elijah. After this incredible experience, they come back down from the mountain and see the remaining disciples in an argument.
These disciples attempted to drive out a demon from a young boy, but they failed. The conversation that takes place between the boy’s father and Jesus is noteworthy. Mark records in verses 22b–24, “‘...But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief!’”
The man’s response to Jesus teaches us two ways we can respond in our own moments of unbelief.
Two ways to respond when struggling with unbelief
First, we can be honest with God. The father’s complete honesty with Jesus encourages us to be honest with God when we are struggling to believe. God welcomes His children to be honest with Him. Therefore, we don’t have to hide our unbelief but can come to God in confidence and confess our unbelief. Second, we can ask for God’s help. Because of God’s love and grace, He invites us to come to Him and ask for renewed faith.
And because God is good and kind, He answers these prayers. God will never deny our request to have more faith. We see evidence of this truth as Jesus goes on to heal the father’s son. One of the primary ways in which Jesus helped this man’s unbelief was by demonstrating His power to heal. Notice that Jesus did not expect the father to have perfect faith in order for his son to be healed. Jesus did not tell him to go strengthen his faith first and then He would consider helping his son. Even though the man’s faith was weak, Jesus healed his son.
Christ’s grace remains strong, even when faith is weak. His grace and mercy continue to overflow no matter our level of belief. This means that we do not ever need to worry that God is upset with us when we struggle to trust Him. We do not ever need to fear that our relationship with God has changed or the status of our salvation has shifted. Even when unbelief is greater than belief, God loves us still. Therefore, we can run toward Jesus rather than away in moments of unbelief. We can approach Christ with confidence, knowing that He is not only able but willing to strengthen our faith.
So in the moments your faith falters, come to Jesus. Be honest with Him about your unbelief and ask Him to help you in your unbelief. And then sink deep within His arms of grace that catch us and hold onto us, even when we doubt.