Please Help My Unbelief

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This is the second time I am writing this piece. I wrote it last night and as I was literally putting the last period on the piece, it disappeared. I don’t know what I did, or if it was some malfunction of my tablet, but it was gone. I was suddenly looking at a blank screen, and, here I am admitting my own failure to live up to my own words, I lost my composure completely. It was not pretty, but it was an ironic, God-given lesson to me, as you will see.

The core of today’s devotion is a ʺpsalmʺ I wrote this past Sunday. The first lines and the repetition came to me in the middle of the Sunday liturgy and this is the final result:

ʺLord, I need you, but not yet enough;
I love you, but not yet enough;
I want to walk in you ways, but not yet enough;
I want to know you more intimately, but not yet enough;
I want to serve you, but not yet enough.

Lord, I want to be your hands, touching the suffering of the world,
but not yet enough;
I want to be hospitable to all who come to my door,
but not yet enough;
I want to give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty with generosity,
but not yet enough;
I want to visit the sick in your name, but not yet enough.

Lord, I want to sell all that I have and give you my all,
but not yet enough;
I want to be able to pick up my crosses and follow you,
but not yet enough;
I want to see you in every face I meet, but not yet enough;
I know that I am nothing without you, but not yet enough.
Lord, I want my hope to be in you, but not yet enough.

Finally, Lord, I believe in you, but not yet enough;
Please, help my unbelief.ʺ

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It seems that we are all in this same boat together. We believe, but not enough yet. There are examples aplenty of this in the Scriptures. In Mark’s Gospel we see the story of a father bringing his deaf mute son to Jesus to be healed. He comes before Jesus and asks him to heal his son, ʺIf you can.ʺ Jesus responds quickly, ʺIf you can? Everything is possible to one who has faith.ʺ To which the father then cries out, ʺI do believe, help my unbelief.ʺ Jesus sees his faith and heals the son. (Mark 9: 24) It is a fact that, if our faith is alive, it is a dynamic, not a static reality. It all depends on our inner attitude, our desire. God knows our innermost desires and he sees the core of our faith and he will answer our prayers. He will give us the graces we need to continue to grow in our faith, for he knows our needs even more than we do.

We see another example of this in Matthew’s Gospel. It is in the passage depicting Jesus coming to the Apostles walking on the water. Peter sees him and says. ʺLord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.ʺ Jesus calls him and Peter leaves the boat. For a few precious seconds, he walks on the water. But just as quickly, he begins to doubt and grows fearful and begins to sink. He cries out, ʺLord, save me.ʺ And Jesus immediately reaches out to him saying, ʺO you of little faith, why did you doubt?ʺ (Matthew 14: 28-31) You see, even Peter believed, ʺbut not yet enough.ʺ This is our universal story. We do believe, but we also cry out, ʺHelp my unbelief.ʺ And every time, Jesus heals us, or reaches out and saves us. For this, infinite love and generosity, we humbly give our profound thanks.

Today’s devotion uses Psalm 32, which deals with the remission of sin, as a backdrop and a support. (You can read the whole of it as part of your meditation today) When the whole text of this devotion disappeared on me last night, I found myself in need of the remission of my sin of anger. I felt as if I had briefly been walking on the water, but failed to keep my eyes on Jesus and I was in danger of drowning in the storm of my anger. In a strange way, I believe that Jesus was using this experience to humble me, to remind me that I can do nothing without him. It was a difficult and painful experience. I was embarrassed with my behavior. But the experienced also drew me closer to him. I needed his embrace and his forgiveness. And he gave me the grace of this experience. Such is the love that Jesus has for us at all times. He knows the depth of our belief in him, and he answers our prayers to help our unbelief.

Lord, come to our aid. We desire to love you with our whole being, help us to increase that desire every day. We pray this prayer in you name, Jesus. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.