Help Thou My Unbelief goes live today. It opens with a dramatic retelling of the Bible story from which I draw the title.
The man shouldered his way through the throng of people towards the sound of raised voices in the middle. Clutched to his chest, his son wriggled with increasing agitation the closer he got. All at once, he broke into an open space and gasped at the sight of Jesus turning to face him. Around him, the people murmured and grew still, but he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus’ questioning expression.
His boy squirmed, and the man felt the urgency of his quest. Swallowing his fear, he took a step closer. He closed his eyes for a desperate sigh of a prayer and hugged his boy tighter. Please, O God, let this work.
The man cleared his throat and spoke. “I have brought unto Thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit.”
Jesus’ eyes flickered to the boy, but He did not answer.
Trembling, the man continued. “Wherever the spirit takes him, it tears him.” He faltered, feeling the boy writhe in his arms. How do I explain the horror of my son’s condition? “And he foams, and gnashes with his teeth, and pines away.” The man searched the surrounding crowd for familiar faces. “I spoke to Thy disciples that they should cast the spirit out, but they could not.”
Shaking His head, Jesus glanced at those who had gathered with Him and muttered, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?”
The man’s eyes filled with tears and he shifted his son’s position in order to control the now twitching legs. He won’t do it. He won’t help us. But He’s the only one who might be able to save my son.
With compassion in His eyes, Jesus looked again at the man and stretched out His hand. “Bring him unto me.”
The man’s heart leapt with relief and he began to ease the boy to his feet. Suddenly the child convulsed, his body lashing out in a wild spasm. Tumbling to the ground, he wallowed and foamed at the mouth.
Jesus observed this calmly, as if unaware of the crowd’s frightened reaction around Him. “How long is it ago since this came unto him?”
How long has it been? The man tried to remember, but could only offer, “Of a child.” He choked on a sob and knelt beside the boy, trying to quiet his thrashing limbs. “Often it casts him into the fire, and into the water, to destroy him.” He caught the boy’s wrists and held them firm, noting the scars that marred the young flesh. Surely, he has suffered long enough. My poor child! Huddling over the boy, both to protect him and to show deference, he cried, “If Thou can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”
He felt a warm hand on his back. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believes.”
A surge of hope rushed through him, and he sat upright, looking deep into Jesus’ eyes. “Lord, I believe!” Beside him, the boy whimpered, and doubt crept into the man’s heart. His disciples believed but could not save him. What if…? He felt his faith crumble as fear gripped him. Grasping Jesus’ arms with both hands, he begged, “Help thou my unbelief!”
Jesus nodded, and the man felt courage bloom within his bosom.
The crowd rippled with whispers of anticipation. Everyone drew closer as Jesus stood and looked at the tortured boy. “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.”
The boy let out an anguished cry and collapsed in a wilted heap.
“He’s dead!” shouted a woman. More voices echoed the news.
The man gazed down at his son, his heart broken, but then Jesus reached down and took the boy’s hand tenderly. The child’s eyes fluttered open.
His eyes are his own! The spirit is gone! The man yelped for joy as Jesus lifted the boy to his feet.