Help My Unbelief

Immediately the father of the child cried out and
said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’

(Mark 9:24, NKJV)

I’ve long had questions about that Scripture verse. How can someone claim they believe and state their unbelief in the same sentence? Isn’t that the very definition of a dichotomy (contradiction)? It took twin calves for God to show me the understanding He wanted me to grasp.

Last week, “Prancer” delivered a small yet beautiful set of twins (boy and girl). At 30-32 lbs. each, these are the smallest calves God has blessed us with here at the Cross-Dubya to date. As always, we did a quick visual inspection and left them alone to find their way and bond with mama. The little heifer took much longer than normal to get to her feet and even longer to find the faucet. As time elapsed, my mental clock ticked louder and louder. When the alarm sounded, I rounded up Mr. John and prepared a bottle of replacement colostrum.

Picking up the newborn calf to constrain it, its small size shocked me. Worriedly, I said, “Not sure these guys are gonna make it, Mr. John.”

In his usual easy-going manner, he stated, “They might be small, but they’re strong and they’ve got a good mama to look after both of them.” I appreciated Mr. John’s optimism, but Satan was already working on me. In my mind, I was already calculating the risk of not getting colostrum soon enough after birth, especially on a cool, wet day. I weighed the fact that this was the first time “Prancer” had twins. More often than not, a mama won’t take both calves. She’ll wander off with one and forget the other. I’ve lost more sets of twins than I’ve saved, and these are the smallest ones yet, Lord. All these thoughts were racing through my mind.

Taking only a third of the bottle, I knew it wasn’t enough of the rich colostrum to help the small calf’s system. She needed more. She needed to nurse her mother before she lost her colostrum. Her brother nursed quickly and seemed to have more energy. A little larger, he might have a chance.

Overwhelmed by thoughts and emotions, I did the only thing more I knew to do. “Lord, as always, I place these calves in Your mighty hands. Your will be done Father.” And with that, I loaded up things and headed back to the house. Over the years, I’ve realized I have very little to say whether an animal in my care lives or dies. I’ve seen weak ones survive against the odds and I’ve seen strong ones succumb to illness and perish overnight. It’s in God’s hands and that’s always the best place for any of us to be, I thought.

That afternoon, I used the tractor and bucket to spread some concrete washout to help fortify an area near the barn. A wetter than usual spring has been a blessing after this prolonged drought, but all the mud and wetness can take its toll. After praying so hard for rain, I don’t think I’ll ever complain about losing a boot in the mud again. Without thinking about it, I left the bucket attached instead of replacing it with the usual hay forks. Walking back to the shop, I perhaps unconsciously knew I was going to bury one or both tiny calves. When Mr. John asked, “You want to go tag and InForce™ (an intranasal vaccine we use on all newborn cattle), them calves?”, my heart gave me away.

“Naw Mr. John, I ain’t got much hope for these little guys. Let’s not waste ‘em.” John argued about how strong they were, but accepted my decision. I spoke with my friend Mrs. April Pope of Cape Fear Farm in NC. A Physician’s Assistant (PA) in her other life, I’ve nicknamed her “Doc”. To guard against a potential Thiamin deficiency, I left for the local farm store (20 miles away) to get a bottle of Vitamin B Complex.

While I was gone, Mr. John called to tell me that “baby girl” was nursing. His elated voice soon changed to a serious tone as he said, “Please don’t give these babies a shot. I done spoke to the good Lord and asked Him to take care of these two and put anything on me instead.” Humbled, I agreed no injections when I returned home even though I knew Vitamin B could provide a boost. I also reminded my young brother-in-Christ that we can’t bargain with God but accept His will in all things.

While we can’t bargain with God, He will listen to a sincere heart crying out to Him. #Faith #ARanchersPlea #CrossDubya Click To Tweet

Instead, we were out there an hour later trying to give them a bottle and feeding them each a tube of ASAP. I mused at myself, I won’t waste a three-dollar vaccine and a two-dollar ear tag on them but will give them a $10 tube of bio-actives. Some days, I realize just how illogical ranchers can be.

As I thought about those little calves through the evening, and did some more praying over them, God shared more of His wisdom with me. Throughout my prayers, the words “Help My Unbelief” kept screaming from within. Looking up and re-reading Mark 9:24 and the all-too-common story of the man and his son’s intersection with Christ, understanding came. I too was experiencing my version of unbelief.

For many years, I viewed this verse as one of those contradictions I might never understand but accepted in faith. I believed that one day God would reveal what He wanted me to understand about this Word. That day finally arrived. Reaching for my Commentaries, then reaching out to a dear sister-in-Christ who is more versed in the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic languages of the Bible than me, I sought understanding. As my Christian writing friend, Mrs. Stephanie Pavlantos explained, in Aramaic (the language most think Jesus spoke while on earth) the word is “hayaman.” As she explained, this word meant both belief and faith. The light, as they say, came on for me!

Is our faith enough for every situation? God can always grow you more if you ask. #Faith #Belief #GrowingInChrist Click To Tweet

So what God’s Word is saying is that the father was stating, “I have faith Lord, but help me have enough faith.” Again, God humbled me. As a long-tenured, thought-to-be mature Christian, God revealed we can always grow more in our faith. He gently reminded me in prayer, however, that growth doesn’t happen without effort on my part.

Well friends, here we are a week later and I’m fixing to go out and vaccinate and tag those two strong, healthy little calves. They’re still tiny, but already high-tailing it around the west pasture as mama looks on. Thinking about my new understanding, I recognized my need to ask God to help me have enough faith in every situation I might face in the coming day. That’s a much different prayer from merely asking Him to walk with me throughout my day. My prayer for you this week is that you might seek God’s face to understand more of His Word in new ways in the coming days.

God’s blessings,

Signature

P.S. Ms. Diane has named the calves. As I was walking out to tag them, I stated, “I reckon it’s time to name them two.” She immediately shared they would be called “Tommaso” (bull) and “Tommasina” (heifer). Interesting enough, and she didn’t realize this until I pointed it out, the name “Thomas” means “twin.”

70 thoughts on “Help My Unbelief”

  1. So happy to hear the good news about the calves. Maybe you should name them “Goodness” and “Mercy” because that is sure what you got. Isn’t it great when God turns the light on about what His Word says? Our faith is like a seed. It can grow when planted. Blessings to you, J.D. and your ranch!

    1. I like that Ms. Barbara. I think these two just received middle names, from a dear and precious friend. 🙂 You are so right ma’am, it doesn’t grow unless we plant it and nourish it.

  2. Honestly J.D. this has long been a favorite scripture of mine because I could so easily relate to that father. I love the revelation the Lord gave you my friend and I appreciate you more than I can say.

    1. Awww… too kind Ms. Ann. Thank you ma’am. I too relish the way God is constantly teaching us. Too many days perhaps, I realize how much more I have to learn. And yes, I share that same appreciation for you ma’am. Loved seeing and hearing you on PJNET last week. Hope you’ll come back and share more of your knowledge, wisdom, and faith with us ma’am.

    1. Amen Ms. Dottie! I couldn’t get over how my wife blurted out “Tommaso”, and it immediately struck me that it meant “twin” (Thomas, also called the twin). When I shared it with Ms. Diane, I suspect we both thought, “That’s a Jesus thang right there”; although I’m not entirely sure my bride thinks in “Texan” yet. LOL

  3. I love your ranch stories J.D. this is a perfect example of “Help my unbelief”. I think without knowing the Aramaic (and I love Stephanie’s podcast), I always understood it that way.

  4. J.D., I gratefully receive that prayer. Thank you.

    I love this story of faith and spiritual growth, and the picture of Prancer and her little ones is beautiful.
    Tommaso and Tommasina are already a blessing to the body of Christ through your writing.
    Diane is a perfect “namer of the herd.” God bless you both.

    1. She sure is Ms. Connie. Yesterday, she let me know that she already has a whole list of names for this year’s calf crop. Three of them used so far (and not sure that she was expecting twins), with lots more to come, by God’s grace. Thank you ma’am.

    1. He absolutely is Ms. Stephanie. I often think, “much more than I deserve”, but this is what God is and what God does. And thank you again for helping me better understand His Word.

  5. J.D., I just love the ranching lessons you bring and I especially love this one! First, I am so glad they both made it! Thank you so much for sharing your insight on this verse. May the Lord give us all enough faith for each situation as it arises. I am so grateful all we need to do is pray and ask Him. And Ms. Diane picked the perfect names!!! Blessings, friend.

    1. Thank you Ms. Joanne. And yes, Ms. Diane is the Cross-Dubya’s official “namer of names.” She will let me get one in now and again though, which is how we ended up with “Lulu Belle” (my clown-faced cow), “Mavric” (he came with that name), and “Giblets” (born just before I sat down for Thanksgiving dinner) LOL. Thank you ma’am and God’s blessings.

  6. God can, and does, use every opportunity to teach us, doesn’t He? I’d often wondered about that verse, too, and now you’ve revealed what it means in understandable terms. Let us all pray that God continues to give us little epiphanies when we most need them
    And may He continue to bless those precious calves, J. D.!
    Blessings!

    1. Thank you Ms. Martha. I pray daily that God can both grow and use me in His service. If I help another in some small way understand a little better, or grow in their faith in some manner, then I feel blessed to have served Him that day. Thank you for the blessing ma’am.

  7. Kathy Collard Miller

    Now that I live in Idaho and drive by horses and cattle every day, I’m even more fascinated by your stories, J.D. And especially love when we see the babies out on the range. I’ll remember your story when we see twins. And God’s provision for His will to be done regardless of our level of faith. Thank you for building my faith.

  8. What a neat, informative, encouraging, and inspiring story, J.D. You’re not the only one who has struggled a bit re. the practical application of that passage. The whole idea of how to “measure” faith has bothered me at times over the years. That struggle was highlighted when it became more and more clear that one of our grandsons was not “normal” and would require care that would challenge every plan they had for their family and disrupt every expectation they had for their future.

    I recall walking for miles along a gravel road in the Yukon-Kuskokwim territory in Alaska and crying out to God for enough faith to believe that He would heal him. I had no doubt that my loving and omnipotent Heavenly Father could get it done in the blink of an eye. I reminded Him over and over of all the stuff He had done that was harder than what I was asking Him to do. All He would have to do was speak the word and the problems would be solved. I wanted faith that would produce a miraculous result and wondered what faith like that would feel like. I tried desperately to “psych-up” the confidence that God had heard me and that it was a done deal.

    That was over twenty years ago. Multiplied thousands of prayers have been added since then and the transformation I hoped for back then never came. Instead, our loving, omnipotent Heavenly Father gradually made it clear that our little Alex was His before he was ours and that He would the One ultimately in charge of raising him. The God who gave him to us would be the One providing what would be needed for his care. God would be there on a daily basis actively fulfilling the purpose He had in mind when He gave him life.

    Back in Alaska, I wanted to gin up faith strong enough to result in a momentary miracle, but God wanted something better. He wanted our whole family to experience a “stronger” kind of faith. He wanted us to trust that He would provide a way when there seemed to be no way. He wanted us to believe that He would send strength to keep going when fatigue gets overwhelming. God wanted us to know that hope based in Him alone would protect us against depression and despair in times when bad news comes. He wanted us to see how the power of the sweet, precious moments with him can erase every doubt and fear that an uncertain future can bring.

    Sorry for going on and on, Brother, but your heartwarming story about the twins and your insights about “stronger” faith kicked in some memories I couldn’t get out of the way. Thanks again for letting God direct your eyes to the things He wanted the rest of us to see. My Diane and I love being “around the Cross-Dubya” with you and seeing the things the living God is doing everyday. And by the way, I loved that closing tidbit about Thomas–really neat icing on the cake. 🙂

    1. Brother, you can “go on and on” any time my friend. In fact, I feel this reply is a post all its own sir. As I read this, I was immediately humbled and moved beyond words. Such a powerful example of living out our faith. What a great point you make sir. God wants us to trust Him through our faith and He uses our lives to grow us. With each time we use our faith, He is faithful to grow it that much more. Thank you sir. I pray you bless us with your “Alex story” and the faith lessons this little fella is teaching you in the future. As God leads my friend.

  9. I love stories with happy endings! You brought sunshine to my day, my friend. I confess, there have been more times than I want to count when I have cried out to God, “Please help me have more faith. Help me believe!” Usually it’s when a loved one is hurt or very sick and I’m praying for healing. Although my pray is not always answered in the specific way I requested, I do know that our Lord is always with me through the trial.

    1. Amen ma’am. We’re having some illness challenges this week Ms. Katherine. While I pray for protection and healing, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s His will and not my own. When I forget that, Satan has an opportunity to weaken my faith. What a great reminder ma’am. God will always be with us through life’s trials.

  10. Welcome to the newest members of Cross-Dubya! Thank you for sharing their story, your faith, and this: “I don’t think I’ll ever complain about losing a boot in the mud again.” I love that after all your prayers during the drought that mud is a blessing. What could have been a complaint and a nuisance is an abundant answer to prayer!

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. I too am blessed to look out and see a pond that is swollen over its banks. The mud and water may be a nuisance to some, but I’m seeing it as a blessing of restoration. God, once again, has kept His promises.

  11. How neat to hear that the two Tomms are doing so well. And how fun that their names mean “twin.”

    That verse has always been a comfort to me. I don’t know if any of us has “perfect” faith. But thankfully God’s working in my life depends on who I have faith in and not so much the strength of my faith.

  12. Beautiful and very well timed post. I am on a journey with a loved one that promises to be long and dark. but even so we are saying “I trust you, Lord,” as we move from one day to the next. Each time I say the words, an inner voice asks, ” but DO I trust Him?” I try so hard, but my trusting needs help. Thank you for explaining this verse today. May you be blessed 100-fold for how much your writing helps others.

    1. Thank you Ms. Rosemarie. And while I don’t know the particulars around your journey, I’ve asked God to continue walking alongside you through it ma’am. God’s blessings ma’am and know you and your loved one are in my prayers moving forward.

  13. Great story! I love that the teacher learned from the student. I love your explanation of the confusing Scripture. And I love the names Ms. Diane chose. I was reminded of the apostle, Doubting Thomas.

    And true, we can always mature in our faith, no matter how “mature” we are.

    1. Yes ma’am. I’m so appreciative that we serve a God who wants us to continue seeking His understanding and His ways in our lives. I think it’s moments like this that remind me not to get “too full of myself.” It’s when we stop learning that we stop growing. Thank you so much Ms. Candyce. God’s blessings ma’am.

  14. I’m afraid I have identified with the father too many times. I believe the Bible is true and that He is good. But I also want my way and fear His way will hurt more than I can endure. Love the lesson and am so thankful the twins are doing well. Also thankful for the wet spring!

  15. I appreciate the clear hand of God in Ms. Diane’s determined names for those precious, thriving calves -twins! May the Lord continue to teach and awe you as you work to nurture his animals and your Christ-seeking, thirsty soul.

    1. Amen Ms. Mary. We definitely realized that Ms. Diane’s naming was a “Jesus thang.” As a Texan (once removed) :-), I know you understand that phrase. Thank you ma’am.

  16. Oh, the drama of life on the ranch! I thoroughly enjoyed the slice of life you shared, and I’m thrilled both calves made it. Don’t you love it when God gives you an “aha” moment? Thanks for passing it on, J.D.

    1. I sure do Ms. Annie. I try and pack them away as treasures that I can go back and rely upon when the world starts to weigh too heavy on me. When I begin to recite all the blessings God has given me, He seems to use my gratitude to lift my burdens and help my spirit soar, as His Spirit lifts me higher. I realize that I soar on His wings and by His power. Amen my friend. So excited to see your new book, “From Ignorance to Bliss” has released, and can’t wait to receive and review it. God’s blessings ma’am, and please give Miss Alyssa a big ‘ol Texas-sized hug for me.

  17. I am thankful God is with us even when we doubt. He understands our thoughts and calls for us to place full trust in Him. I love the names of the twins. How sweet! Have a blessed day! 🙂

  18. Oh what a sweet truth and testimony of Gods faithfulness. Congratulations on the twins
    Thank you for sharing your story. Mr. John is amazing and I love the names Ms. Diane chose.
    Love you guys

    1. We love y’all too Ms. Lisa. Mr. John still gushes about you three (He talks about Mia more than anyone else LOL). What a loving heart for animals (and people) God has placed in this gentle man. And thank you ma’am; wish they could have been born while you and Mr. Keith were visiting with us. I think he would’ve loved to have gotten out there with them. 🙂

  19. Wow, you have really cleared up my understanding of that verse also. Thank you JD. I hope we hear future stories about these twins and all the lessons God shares with you on your ranch.

    1. Pretty certain you will Ms. Yvonne. God is still teaching me things through these cows, and dogs, and donkeys, and chickens… LOL Thank you for the blessings ma’am.

  20. I’m so glad those little twins are doing well. I appreciated your insights into that verse. It was helpful! You always have such creative names. What have you named those little ones?

    1. Thank you Ms. Kathy. Ms. Diane named them about a week later. “Tommaso” (Thomas) and “Tommasina” (the female variant). “Thomas, the twin.” Very fitting I think. 🙂

  21. Edwina E Cowgill

    I, too, have wondered about that verse, so I’m most appreciative of your explanation. I’m delighted the twins are doing well!

    Blessings!

  22. J.D., I love this story of the twin calves and the great enlightenment of this verse/passage. I’m so thankful the calves overcame obstacles to survive and grow in their own time. My twin sister and I were born early and tiny, weighing 3.9 and 4.1.

    And I especially like that we can have faith, but ask the Lord to grow our faith in Him.

    1. Wow! You and your sister were tiny babies too. And look how great y’all grow out. 🙂 Thank you for your encouraging words Ms. Karen. Yes, it is wonderful indeed that God responds when we ask. Am learning how faith is like a muscle ma’am, the more we use it, the stronger it becomes.

  23. Thank you, JD! I’ve often wondered about that verse myself and can appreciate what’s behind the man’s plea. I have faith (because if I don’t, I have nothing!) — but there are plenty of times when I need a faith boost. Thank you for providing that for us!

    1. Amen Ms. Leigh! It isn’t a question of whether we have faith or not, but if we have enough for the moment, isn’t it my friend. God’s blessings ma’am, and thank you so much for commenting.

  24. What a wonderful story of faith! I love how the twins were the catalyst for it. I also love how Mr. John played a key role in your quest. The Lord had blessed you with a man whose heart is as tender and understanding of animals as your own. And Ms. Diane as the giver of perfect names. And the most amazing blessing is how the Lord gave you eyes of understanding about faith that you could share with us! Thank you, dear brother, for this blessing today.

  25. Three things you said jump out at me. 1) “It’s in God’s hands and that’s always the best place for any of us to be, I thought.” Yessir! That’s the truth! 2) “As a long-tenured, thought-to-be mature Christian . . . ” Yessir, I think we all have moments like that! and 3) You used the word “humbled” a couple of times. Yessir. It’s important to stay humble enough to keep learning and growing. Thanks for sharing this with us, JD.

    1. Thank you “Chaps”; it was sure good to hear from you my friend. Since your “Navy tour of duty”, you’ve been one busy man. I can hardly keep up. 🙂 Have a blessed one sir, and I pray you and Ms. Linda are doing well.

  26. I have to admit my enigma surrounding that verse, too. But, like you, I learned the truth of its words in a few situations of my own. I’m so glad the twins survived. now I hope they continue to thrive. Way to go, John, for putting hope into action.

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. I too appreciate that Mr. John is learning to put his faith into action and is not afraid to share the convictions of his heart. I’ll always try to listen to his requests and opinions, and although they don’t always work out, they are listened to. It’s good to look out across the west pasture and see a bunch of healthy, energetic calves.

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