Help My Unbelief

I know I’m pretty young, but I’ve had my share of bad days.

I’ve experienced chronic pain for almost seven years. That’s about a third of my life.

At the beginning, I had no idea it would last this long. I figured that I was going through a temporary trial; God would end the pain once I learned my lesson, and I could move on. Every time I learned something new about relying on Him on the hard days, I thought, “Alright this is it! It’ll be over soon!”

And yet…I’m still in pain. The pain has spread from only my left foot to every joint/area of my spine, except my knees and elbows. Everything else is in pain. Every. Single. Day.

As the pain has spread throughout my body, disappointment follows. Another inflamed/injured/unstable body part means that I have even less control over my body.

Here’s a recent example of a bad day for me:

Last spring, I partially dislocated my hand in my sleep. (That was a fun way to wake up.) Since then, I’ve felt pain while completing everyday tasks, but I’ve been able to push through. However, I had increasing pain throughout this spring semester, so I decided to visit my hand specialist again. I found out a few weeks ago that I’ve had a cyst in one of the bones of my hand (probably) for the past year. The cyst formed when fluid leaked into a crack in my bone. (The crack probably is a result of the one dislocation I had.) The cyst is causing my bones to rub against each other, resulting in arthritis. To remove the cyst, my doctor will have to operate, and let’s just say it won’t be easy.

Arthritis is not a diagnosis that a college student wants to hear. It’s not cancer, but come on! I have things I want to do with my life!

So here’s how I typically respond to a bad day:

I try to let the bad news sink in. I try to acknowledge reality. Then I look for ways to move forward. (I’m a fairly practical thinker.) I attempt to move forward without acknowledging God in any way. My reasoning is usually that I don’t want to get angry at God. And so I push Him away. Like when you’re mad at someone and just feel the need for space before you can see them again. That’s how I treat God. Then, after 24 to 72 hours, I usually realize that I probably need God to move forward. I repent. We move forward. I have another bad day. Repeat.

I feel like I should have mastered the art of a bad day by now. Clearly I haven’t.

But I think I’ve finally identified a strategy to help make a bad day better.

Recently a story from the Bible that has often been on my mind is Jesus’ healing of the boy who was made mute.

21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Mark 9:21-27 (ESV)

I find this healing narrative fascinating, mostly due to the response of the boy’s father. He approached Jesus in faith in His ability to heal. He begged for compassion and relief. Jesus told him, “I’ve got this.” The boy’s father expresses belief in Jesus’ ability, then asks for help believing.

On the day I found out I have arthritis, I remembered this passage. I remembered how the boy’s father stated what he knew to be true about Jesus and asked for help believing it.

That day, I chose not to ignore God. That day, I prayed that He would “help my unbelief.”

Here is a portion of my conversation with God on that bad day:

God, You are in control of this situation. Help my unbelief.

God, You are working this out for my good. Help my unbelief.

God, You are always good. Help my unbelief.

God, You are faithful to strengthen me. Help my unbelief.

God, You will not abandon me. Help my unbelief.

No matter what the circumstances of your day, your God never changes. His character is reliable, and expressing faith in His character can drastically alter your attitude towards your circumstances.

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