Have you ever been in the midst of a tough situation and turned to God, only for things to take a turn for the worse?
Recorded in three of the gospels is the story of a father who could have lost faith multiple times.
First, the father brought his boy to the disciples, but they were unable to cast out the demon. The father could have turned away forlornly and left to find another source of healing. But instead, the father stayed, even when the scribes started a dispute with the disciples about their failed attempt. The father stayed, and because of that, he met Jesus face-to-face.
To the reader, Jesus’ arrival on the scene is the turning point of the story. But the father could not have known that. When Jesus arrived, his son only appeared to get worse. As soon as the demon saw Jesus approaching, he immediately threw the boy to the ground and convulsed him so that the boy wallowed, foaming at the mouth. This must have been painful for the father to watch and endure. After all, he had watched the demon bruise his son and throw him into both fire and water since childhood; could this time be any different? Nevertheless, the father stayed and asked Jesus for help.
The events leading up to this point must have dealt some blows to this father’s faith (and perhaps understandably so). Therefore, his plea was “if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mk 9:22, emphasis added). He was unsure of Jesus’ ability to heal his son. After all, his followers (much to their embarrassment) were unsuccessful. His son’s current state also looked unpromising. He was also unsure of Jesus’ compassion. Luke records the father as saying “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for this is my only child (Lk 9:38).” He dearly loved his son but he did not know whether Jesus cared enough to help. The father had doubts, but he acknowledged them honestly. In the end, the father saved his son not because he had the perfect unshakable faith, but because he earnestly asked for aid in overcoming his doubts.
As a result, the demon cried out, convulsed the son, and left the son looking as if he were dead. With people all around him whispering that his son has died, at this very critical moment, Jesus did not disappoint the father. When Jesus returned his son to him, his son was not only cured but cured for good. Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to never return, so though this experience may have been very taxing, he would never need to go through it again.
We, just like this father, may go through faith-shaking times in our lives. When we are in difficulties and it feels like our prayers are in vain, do we have the faith to still bring our troubles to Him? If the situation worsens, do our pain and suffering cause us to leave God? Do we acknowledge our unbelief and ask God for help, crying out with tears as the father did? If we do all of these, all that is left for us to do is to wait. When things look like they are at their worst, remember that it is not the end yet.