The Gospel of Mark recounts a story about a desperate father.
The disciples had been trying to cure the man’s son of a terrible affliction but had been unable. When the boy’s father saw Jesus approaching, he pleaded: “If you are able… please have compassion and help us!”
If the distraught man had understood who Jesus was, he surely would not have included the beginning of his request: “If you are able….” If he had known Jesus’ character and reputation, he should have left out the second part, too: “Please have compassion….”
There should have been no question about either Jesus’ ability or His willingness to help. The only thing the man needed to say was, “please help us!”
Jesus’ answer to the desperate father was profound.
He knew that these were the words of a soul who was hanging by his last thread of hope. He could have dismissed him for his doubting remark, pointing out his failure in faith. Instead, Jesus saw the man’s desperation. Jesus met the man where he was – in the center of his deepest pain. He gently corrected his request:
“Jesus answered him, If you can believe.” – Mark 9:23
There was no condemnation in Jesus' reply. He could see that the man was struggling with the tiny faith that he had left. Jesus’ compassionate answer must have bolstered the man’s faith a thousand-fold. “Immediately, the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mar 9:24
Pain and suffering test our faith.
Our enemy uses pain and suffering as his greatest weapons. The book of Job is a window into the devil’s playbook.
Jesus focused on the key factor - He was pointing out to the desperate father that the real point of the game is about the faith and not the suffering. When we suffer, our focus is meant to be on God's strength and character, rather than on our suffering. It's the suffering that builds our faith stronger. The suffering is temporary -- faith is eternal.
Jesus seems to say, “there should be no ‘if’ about my power, or my willingness, the ‘if’ lies somewhere else.” “If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.”