It’s so easy to friend and unfriend people on social media. You don’t like one post? One click and the offender is gone forever (of course, if you become friend again, they can just as easily be re-admitted into your close inner circle). The autonomous self is quite good at unfriending God too. Some might have been exposed to the faith growing up but now have moved on. Oftentimes life’s adverse circumstances cause us the question God’s love and His purposes. It seems so easy to “unfaith” Him, since in the sad reality of this Present Evil Age, things will happen that will cause us (or tempt us) to press the ‘self-eject’ button with God.
In the Gospel of Mark there are several encounters with folks who ‘unfaith’ Jesus and doubt His promises. The disciples aren’t immune and persist in their doubts regarding the resurrection all the way to the end of the book (see 16:14). Peter, James and John’s openly doubt about the resurrection even after seeing Moses and Elijah alive (9:10). Another prime group of doubters/unfaithers are the Sadducees (12:18), the ‘Brahmins’ of the first Century Jerusalem intellectual class. To their doubt and a trick question (see 12:18-23), Jesus responds you are “quite wrong” and “you do not understand the Scripture” (they know it alright, but they can’t make sense of it) “nor the power of God” (12:24). One other doubter is the father of the child with appears to be a powerful case of epilepsy that is combined with severe demon possession (Mark 9:14-29). He is a typical doubter (“help my unbelief” 9:24) but he also believes in God’s “compassion” (9:22) and this is what he clings to in his appeal to Jesus. At the end of the day, in the midst of our struggles, this is also what you and I cling to: God’s steadfast love and compassion. Lamentations 3:18, 21-23) puts it this way:
“My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord”
“But this I call to mind” (literally “my heart returns to this”):
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!”
We too may have doubt and may want to unfaith Him. Some of us may have done so for a long time. But the lesson of the father in Mark 9 is what we don’t ever need to doubt is God’s compassion and mercy. This mercy may come in unexpected and strange packages and never (or rarely) according to our timing, but it does come to us. The author of Lamentations (probably Jeremiah, see his doubts in Jeremiah 20) cling to hope in the midst of hopelessness and despair. It’s not hope in hope, or even faith in our faith, but it’s hope in God and His gift of compassion. As Paul will say, our faith itself is a gift from God! (Ephesians 2:8).