Help Thou Mine Unbelief
Mark 6:20 - Mark 9:42
One day a great multitude came to hear the Savior. The people had been with the Savior for three days, with nothing to eat during that time. The Savior was worried that if he sent them away fasting, they would faint before they could reach their homes.
It is clear that many of them had traveled a long distance to hear the Savior speak.
From the scriptures we learn that they were in the wilderness, far from a location where food might be purchased.
Just as He had in a similar situation before, the Savior asked the disciples how many loaves of bread they had. Then, reminiscent of an earlier miracle, the Savior fed 4000 with seven loaves of bread and a few fishes.
I love the teaching moment that comes after this miracle.
Leaving the questioning Pharisees behind in the wilderness, the Savior entered a boat with the disciples to journey to the other side of the sea. As they began their journey the disciples quickly realized they had forgotten to bring the bread that was remaining, and that within the ship there was only one loaf. As they discussed the situation, the Savior instructed them to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees.” (Mark 8:15)
It was an interesting choice of words.
As is often the case, within one simple sentence the Savior had incorporated a complex lesson. This lesson is found within the word ‘leaven.’ Leavening requires an agent such as yeast. This leavening agent causes a reaction within the original dough causing bubbles of gas, which lightens the finished product. The leavening agent causes the original dough to change ––both in appearance, and also in flavor. Even just a small amount of leaven mixed into the dough will cause the desired affect throughout.
The Savior was cautioning the disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, who were full of doubt; asking endless questions; seeking a sign; tempting the Lord.
Understanding not, the disciples reasoned among themselves, and finally decided the instruction from the Savior came because they had no bread.
When Jesus heard this line of reasoning He said, “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? …Having eyes, see ye not?” (Mark 8:17-18, emphasis added) Somehow the disciples had lost their focus, they were unable to see the Savior right in front of them and to understand the significance.
Trying to help them refocus the Savior asked, “When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They said unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” (Mark 8:19-21 emphasis added) They were with the Savior every day, and yet even they struggled to see the good, to focus on the miracles within the ordinary moments.
In the hard moments of my life, when things are not going as well as I would hope, I try to focus again on the hand of the Lord in my life, and to remember this cautionary phrase, “How is it that ye do not understand?”
In the moments when I am in need of great faith, the moments when I need to remember what it is to shift from the one loaf to the Lord, I often turn the page from this story to the story found in the ninth chapter of Mark.
It’s the story of the man who had come to the Savior, begging Jesus to heal his son. He says to the Lord, “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” (v. 22) Jesus had compassion on the man and his afflicted son and said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (v. 23)
Often, when I read these words, I echo the pleading of the father in my own heart.
Sometimes I wonder to myself if the man was really asking, “if thou canst do anything…” He must have known the Savior could, or he would not have come to Him. In my mind I hear instead the distraught father saying, “Because you can do anything have mercy on us.” And then I hear the Savior reply, not “if thou canst believe…” for He must have known that the father had some belief, or he would not have come to the place where he was at that time. (see D&C 6:14) Instead I hear this reply, “because you can believe all things are possible.”
Seeking the miracle with all his heart, “the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
Reading this quote always makes me feel relief…. The man was not perfect in his faith. He felt doubt, just as I have. But there was a difference, a lesson here ––willing to admit that his faith was not perfect, the father offered everything he had and asked the Lord to make up what he lacked.
Sometimes we have to pray not only for the healing to take place but also for the added faith we will need to allow the healing to take place.
And so it is in our everyday life. As we attend to difficulties, we can turn to the Savior. When we feel we are lacking as a mother, a wife, or a friend, we can rely on Him for answers. When we are not enough in our callings at church or in the many other areas in which we serve, we can look to Christ. And any time the task at hand seems more than we can bear, we can plead for His assistance.
Then, “although our faith were only…the smallest, and the result to be achieved the greatest… nothing shall be impossible unto us. For all things are ours, if Christ is ours.”