Lord, Help My Unbelief!

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On our refrigerator, attached by a random series of accumulated fridge magnets, is this verse:

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
—Isaiah 58:11

I stood in our kitchen today and stared at that small, yellow page. My handwriting. The encouragement I wrote for my wife during a tough time she faced. The Lord guided me to that passage and it sang in my soul that day so many months ago.

But times are even tougher now, not so much for her, but for me. And I look at that verse written in my own hand and I want to believe it, though I can’t see it.

That verse is just one of many things I want to believe.

I want to believe that a man can work a sixty-hour week, spend quality time with his wife and kids, be involved in his community, find time for leisure, and still be an effective disciple of Jesus Christ. He wants me to believe, too.The kind of man who prays big prayers and knows God intimately for those prayers. The kind of man who readily leads many others to his Savior and disciples those same people to maturity. I want to believe, but I don’t know any men like that.

I want to believe that it’s possible to drop into a majority of churches in any town in this country and find a thriving community of saints that not only loves God passionately but finds time for each other. And not just talk about community, but a church that meets more than a couple days a week in each other’s homes for meals, talk of Christ, prayer, fellowship, and simple fun. And when the times are not so fun, that this same group of people can find the time to comfort each other. I want to believe, but I don’t know any churches like that.

I want to believe that people who call themselves Christians and live in America could be deliriously happy in the Lord Jesus even if everything they owned was taken away from them. Not just refraining from buying the latest update of the iPod or Prius, but actually losing everything they owned.I want to believe, but it seems impossible to.

I want to believe that the Church of Jesus Christ still takes the Great Commission seriously. A Church made up of selfless people who would crawl over miles of broken glass to save one soul from hell. I want to believe, but it’s hard to do so.

I want to believe that things are getting better and not worse. That churches are vital, not impersonal museums or dog-and-pony shows. That the people I know who are Christians are growing closer to the Lord and more distant from the world, ready to be martyred for the faith if need be. People who love not their own lives, even unto death. I want to believe, but the evidence for that reality is so sparse.

I want to believe that it’s not too late. That the Lord will tarry and we’ll somehow get a reprieve, time enough to wake up and get serious about getting serious. I want to believe, but I also know the darkness is coming when no man can work.

I want to believe! Lord, help my unbelief!

25 thoughts on “Lord, Help My Unbelief!

  1. I’d like to believe it too Dan.

    I’d like to believe that there are Christians who understand as Bonhoeffer did that when Christ calls a man to him he bids him come and die.

    There are of course, your own writing demonstrates that.

  2. Amy Heague

    Hey Dan, be encouraged.
    I think the thing we all need to remember is to set our eyes, hearts & minds firmly on Christ & not the natural set of circumstances that face us & the church…
    That said –

    For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins

    Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.

    Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

    Colossians

    Amy

    • Amy,

      I really want to be encouraged. I do. But at some point you have to see signs of things improving or else there’s such little reason to be positive. That’s the struggle for me right now.

      It’s a little bit like when women pine for their husbands to express their feelings of love for them. Yeah, he might vacuum out her car now and then, but he never says, “I love you.” After a while, she begins to wonder if he really does. If he did profess that love verbally, even once a month, she could probably live on that till the next month. But if he never says it, does she not have reason to wonder about his love?

      At some point, it has to be about more than just a hope that something will change. There has to be some evidence. If someone says, “I’m a Christian,” should we take him at his word? The Bible says, “No. There has to be fruit.” So if the fruit is never there, no reason to believe that the man is a Christian remains.

      If we require proof of faith there, why do we not also require proof elsewhere? Even faith itself is not blind. Something must have existed to base that upon. The prodigal son who wandered away from home at least knew that home still existed and he could find some solace there. But what would have been his lot if his father’s house had burned to the ground and had taken his family with it? Then where would he be?

      The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church universal, but that doesn’t mean that the Church in the U.S. won’t give up and walk away from the battlefield. I’m convinced that is what we are doing. We should not be surprised if the Lord takes away our lampstand and sets it up elsewhere.

      • Amy Heague

        Hey Dan, I get it, I really do.

        There are days when I just gotta grab hold of hope & hold on for dear life, or I would just disappear into a pit of discouragement & feel like I’ve wasted my time…..

        “I want to believe that a man can work a sixty-hour week, spend quality time with his wife and kids, be involved in his community, find time for leisure, and still be an effective disciple of Jesus Christ”
        Does or has this person ever existed or was even meant to exist? Have we set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve? What is it that we really want? Doesn’t Christ call us to die to our life? Do we trust Christ enough to provide ALL that we need? I don’t know.

        I’m not from the US, but where I stand & what I have observed, maybe God is doing some hardcore pruning.

        My husband & I talk constantly about whether or not the church we perceive & participate in is just so totally wrong which is why we don’t see peoples lives fully transformed & discipled….so what do we do? Chuck in the towel? Do we continue to serve faithfully the church we are in (by the way, I love my church) & struggle to pay the bills or does my husband give his dream a crack & record an album that does not fall into the “Christian” genre….
        Is serving in church the only way to serve THE Church?
        hmmmmmm……
        HOPE, prayer,hope, soft heart, perseverance in seeking God then some more hope.
        Then I wonder, maybe we are looking in the wrong direction for fruit & God is shaking us & trying to make us look around.
        I’m rambling. Sorry.

        Amy

        This link may be totally irrelevant, but…
        Sometimes we may never see the fruit.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfBIDKuwADU

  3. Brian

    I used to think I knew people like that, but over the years I have come to see that there are some people who put too much emphasis on outward appearance, that can look saintly on the outside but are really in it for their own motives. One of the biggest challenges to livng a life like you described is that its harder to die to yourself, letting that single kernel fall to the ground, than trying in our own strength. Of course our own strength will fail, no question.

    • Brian,

      I’m not sure I can point to a single man I know who works in the conventional business world who has not put career before Christ. I’m convinced that one of the choices we men face is to make money or be faithful to the Lord through ministry. I know of no one who does both well. One always suffers. And we all know what Jesus says about attempting to serve two masters.

      • J

        Dan,

        As one considering getting back into the conventional business world, this really gives me pause for thought. I do know a small business owner who uses his company for the kingdom (hiring and investing in brothers who have no other employment prospects, using his business skills and contacts in missions, serving as a church elder). I have no idea when (or if) he sleeps!

        Brian,

        Your point may be right on. Even in the ministry that God has given me (leading a small bible study), I’ve begun to question my motivations. I have to shamefully admit that I like being looked up to as a leader. It is hard to die to self. Lord help us!

  4. connie

    I read your post, and I thought of Elijah in the cave.

    I also recalled what God had to say to him.

    Christ WILL build His church. Whether we see it or not.

  5. Jesus’ seems to have shared similar feelings of forsakeness and despair on the cross. Meanwhile God was preparing His great victory.
    I was once told that God can get so close that it actually feels like He is nowhere to be found.

  6. Jesus seems to have shared similar feelings of forsakeness and despair on the cross. Meanwhile God was preparing His great victory.
    I was once told that God can get so close that it actually feels like He is nowhere to be found.

  7. Dan,

    I rarely comment, and I know you may have a larger “Church” sense to this post than to what my comment will refer, but tonight, as I sit here encouraged by a well-spent day with my children, by a husband with a true heart for God, by the fact that you are “out there” seeking God and not the world, I just want to say, believe.

    I really do know people, part of His Church, like you have described. Right here in rural Ohio. They hold down jobs to feed and shelter their growing families while they give time and money and hospitality and furniture and more time to strangers and brothers and sisters in Christ. They affect those with whom they come into contact because of how different they are from the world — not in dress or looks, necessarily, but because their lives are open. They are always, always, always, looking for some opening to help, to share. They are our dear friends, and we love to be a part of what God is clearly doing in this little corner of the world.

    Because I know this is true, it gives me great hope, because I then know that it MUST be true in other little places all around the world. If others are like the people we know, then the greater Christian world may never hear about them, because the people I know are too busy helping to talk about how they help. This is a good thing, because it inspires me to be too busy helping to talk about it, and in turn, I pray that others can be inspired. God’s ways are amazing to me.

    Thank you for the post, Dan.

  8. Dan: “The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church universal, but that doesn’t mean that the Church in the U.S. won’t give up and walk away from the battlefield. I’m convinced that is what we are doing. We should not be surprised if the Lord takes away our lampstand and sets it up elsewhere.

    I can see that you are having another one of those dire days. Well, it’s hard for me to blame you. Besides the fact that I have been getting all these infections, brochitis being the latest, it’s also getting hard for me to have a rosy outlook on on the shape of xnty in this country. Here in Land-In-Between, I’ve almost reached the conclusion that I am living in some sort of spiritual exile, perhaps permanent, and with all the snow we’ve been getting lately (thank you, Al Gore), it’s even starting to look like Siberia. So I guess exile here is fitting.

    So here am I, in my little crackerbox house in Land-In-Between, feeling totally powerless as I watch America rot away, from the bottom up and from the top down.

    I hope tomorrow is nicer for you, Dan. I really do.

  9. Mr. Edelen,

    I have been reading your blog for a while, but don’t know that I’ve ever commented. This morning the verse you mentioned in this post really blessed me. Several years ago I went through a tough time and someone gave me that verse, and it helped me so much. Right now I am facing a less difficult, but, in many ways, more “dry” situation, and this verse was such a wonderful reminder from the Lord. Thank you for being honest and vulnerable.

    Also, I don’t know if this is any encouragement, but I’ve been using your “world’s best Bible-reading plan,” and it’s blessing me. I’ve been reading through Colossians every morning since the first of the year, and today I started taking note of how the Lord is portrayed. I don’t know that I’ll ever make it out of this book, but that’s OK.

    I hope you have a blessed day,

    Chelsey

  10. David Riggins

    I wish I could say that “things will get better.” But frankly, they won’t. Not in this world. Paul said to comfort one another with the hope of resurrection, so that it what I’ll do. Or as the song says:

    In a while we’ll be gone,
    And we won’t have to cry anymore;
    All our sorrows left behind.
    That’s the day that I am longing for.

  11. George Ferris

    Hello Dan,

    Oh my dear friend I’m glad I came across your blog a few days ago.

    What a breath of fresh air to hear judgment day honesty and that rare Christian quality of transparency. How dangerously freeing it is to take the mask off and be real.

    Your struggles resonate with me because I feel very very similar about myself and my lazy walk with God. I know that I and probably the vast majority of “us” need stirred from our evangelical slumber.

    How did a small group of first century, mostly working class folks with no email, computers, wealthy Christian Foundation partners, tax deductible giving schemes, Christian CD’s, DVD’s and books ever change the world? I don’t have a definitive answer, but maybe a consuming heart of love and a passionate devotion to their Saviour and the earnest belief that joining the local church could mean a early death, these may be part of the reason. Perhaps also they didnt have to portion off chunks of time to sign to many copies of their new Christian book just off the press with a 20% discount if you pre-order. Forgive my cynical swipe at the comericalism within the Christian marketplace. I was part of it for a number of years so I guess I’m feeling guilty.

    I’ve sat too long and heard well meaning Pastors and Church members seemingly condone, or at least make excuses for a lukewarm faith and pass it off as somehow normal. The Lord Jesus in Rev 3ff did not seem to share the same idea. I look at my own life and ask honestly, am I on fire for God…..my answer, and I say it with shame and trembling, is no. But I want to be.

    One thing that really spoke to me a few years ago was an authors question. The authors asked if God supernaturally removed all the members of your church next Sunday how long would it be before the unbelieving neighbours were asking where all the Christian’s had gone? You know, those strange people who were always doing good and feeding the down and outs. Looking after the widows and orphans. Serving others with a smile, yes remember those people who by their good works shamed us and yet drew out a begrudging admiration. Or……..would they just notice that the Church car park was empty three or twenty three times a week and all the flash cars were no where to be seen.

    But maybe, just maybe, most of us have never been really converted at all and we card carrying church attending evangelicals need to be born again. In all honesty I wonder if I’m saved at all.

  12. This post resonates with me. First visit, thanks to Julie N.

    Jason–remember that there is no death without resurrection. “Unless the seed die..”

    I HAVE to remember it or I despair or curl up in an emotional ball of fear and pain. We have to remind each other that we die to rise. Death is just the passage.

    Lord I believe, help my unbelief.

  13. Melanie

    This nation is long-overdue for a revival. But if you believe that this is the end times (or at least the beginning of the end), I guess the nation, including many of those who call themselves Christians, are going to go astray.

    Re: your “big prayers” : I used to think I had to pray a big, elaborate prayer every time I prayed. A “prayer feast,” if you will. But I only “ate” once a day (if that much). Now, I try to break it down into shorter, more frequent prayer “snacks” – and it really helps to keep me sustained throughout each day.

    God bless you. Don’t lose hope. God is always the same, no matter how badly the church screws up.

  14. Sue

    Dan
    Just came across your blog. Yes it is hard to fine the ture body of Christ out in this old world. Could it be because the road to God is very narrow? And many shall not fine it? I have to agree with what you have said in your blog. I don’t think I have found to many people who will take up the cross daily and die to self. I will have to say I am even one of them. I cry out daily help my unbelief dear Lord. I look all around me and just can’t fine people who love as Jesus told us to love. Just how many people out there would sell all thier belongings and follow Jesus? My daily prayer is Jesus I want to follow YOU and YOU alone! I want Jesus to put His desires in my heart.
    Thank you for posting this blog, I pray others will come across it and Jesus will give them the desires of His heart.
    Sue

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