Help Thou Mine Unbelief
by James Dillet Freeman
"Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24)
Our of many troubled hearts this cry has risen!
For some it is easy to believe. To them God is as real as their own hands or eyes; His purposes are plain, His love is sure. They may not be able to put their faith into words. They do not need to. They have it in their hearts, and they put it into all they say and do.
For others it is not easy to believe. They want to believe. They pore over books of metaphysics and study the teachings of mystics and saints. They spend long hours in prayer. Yet they lack a heart of faith. Even after years the mists of doubt remain, the weary cry still rises: "Help thou mine unbelief."
Faith is the foundation of religion. Psychologists analyze its nature. Mystics describe its effects. Theologians dispute its meaning. When we hear of miracles, we hear that they were wrought through faith. When we pray and do not get what we prayed for, we are likely to be told that it is because we did not have enough faith.
What is this faith that we are told is so important to us?
Faith is not so much a matter of the mind as of the heart. Sometimes in seeking to understand God as a principle, we lose sight of him as a presence. Theologians and philosophers can know God as words to set down in books, but a child who cannot even utter the name of God may have faith beyond that of learned priests. To have faith is not to theorize about God or even to imagine Him, buit to experience Him.
Faith is the opposite of fear. Have you ever felt the icy feet, the racing heart, the unnerved hands of fear? The hands of faith are strong and sure. The feet of faith move steady to the will. The heart of faith beats quietly in tune with God. Faith is a warmth, a feeling of well-being that envelops the body and overflows the mind. Faith brings an inward peace, a tranquil spirit.
Faith is the expectation of the unexpected. Faith is an open and courageous heart. The arms of prayer are outstretched, not in supplication but in surrender of life's sovereign will, in submission to the ruling order of the universe, in receptivity to good.
Faith is the power to see in the disappointment of today the fulfillment of tomorrow, in the end of old hopes the beginning of new life. Faith is the inward power to see beyond the outward signs, the power to know that all is right when everything looks wrong.
When our fondest dreams go amiss and our dearest prayers seem to remain unanswered, faith is a vision of life that soars beyond the limitations of the self - these narrow senses, this imperfect reason, this drift of circumstance - and sees that our life is a part of something more than we have ever understood, that in spite of all that may seem and all that may happen there is an ultimate fulfillment, that all is well, that all must be well. For life has an eternal meaning, and we are one with the infinite, and whatever may befall us, in the all-enfolding, all-unfolding everness of God it will work out for good.
To have such faith is to have the serenity of the saint, the passion of the poet, and the exaltation of the mystic.
You can learn to have faith.
Faith is not an abstraction; it is an attitude toward life, a feeling about life. It does not come out of signs or miracles or any outward happenings so much as out of inward growth.
If you cannot believe in much, then believe in the little that you can. Start where you are and grow. What seed can have foreknowledge of the tree it will become? What thorny bush can prophesy the rose? What worm can tell of the butterfly? Faith grows.
If you find yourself deploring how little your faith is, think how far you have come with the little faith you have. As you climb a hill it is sometimes well to look back to seek how far you have come instead of always looking at the interminable heights ahead.
Sometimes you may have more faith than you imagine, and when you need it you find it within you.
Have you ever, standing by the sea or walking down a country road or wandering through a field or wood or gazing at the starry sky, suddenly been lifted up and out of yourself, overwhelmed by beauty, so that for a moment you were not anything at all but were a part of all that is? Surely this is faith.
Have you ever stood on a busy corner and felt your heart go out, clear out, to the people, all the people, your people, feeling their minds winged with dreams like yours, feeling their hearts big with yearnings like yours, feeling the human tide of life moving, ceaselessly moving, moving forward? Surely this is faith.
Have you ever in the silence of yourself felt a sense of being more than self? Surely this is faith.
And the faith that grows out of questioning is stronger than the faith born of blind acceptance. It can withstand the shocks of circumstance. Only he who questions the universe and questions it in utter honesty can grow in his comprehension of the truth.
Sometimes when we have much to meet we doubt our power to meet it. We feel alone. Yet if we but keep on, we will not fail, we cannot fail - even if we falter, even if we fall. Even in defeat we are victorious; for we win the greatest vistory of all, victory over ourselves.
This is certain; we are not alone. We are one with the sovereign and sustaining will, one with the abiding order, one with the goodness and the heroism, one with the upward urge, one with the triumphant spirit of life.
Though there be no shouts of praise, no laurels, we bear the whole race forward in great stride, and the compassion that enfolds the world catches us to itself and presses us even into the inmost heart of life, even into the love of God Himself.
"Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
When from your heart the troubled cry goes up, know that there is no cry but that somehow there is an answer. There is a love. There is a power. There is a wisdom, and there is a way to go. Let your heart hold fast; the way will be made plain.