This is a pretty commonly known passage in the Bible, yet I’ve never had to opportunity to really dig into the meaning behind this man’s words. (I mean other than the obvious lol). When I first read this my mind automatically formed several questions. For one, why would Jesus ask this man how long has His son been like this? I'm sure Jesus being all knowing as the son of God already knew how long this boy has been dealing with his condition? However, upon further examination…. Jesus wasn’t really asking that question because He didn’t know, but just as anything He does…to prove a point. When Jesus asked the man how long has this boy been like this....or to put it plainly, how long has this boy lived with this condition? The man answered "since he was a little boy." See after hearing that his son has been dealing with this condition since he was little, it kind of made more sense why the man responded the way he did. Now, I'm not saying that "unbelieving" should always be excusable….I’m just merely pointing out that this man had some reasoning behind his response.
Now this was interesting to me because this conversation was followed by the man telling Jesus how the disciples couldn't do it. So I'm only imagining when the man was bold enough to say "if" you can to Jesus he was only speaking on what he saw...or rather the lack of what he didn’t see. See, in this man’s experience, no one has been able to give his son any relief of his condition since he was a little boy. So in my opinion, only naturally would the man have doubts that his son just may not be able to be delivered from this spirit. After years have gone by and after failed attempts of the releasing of the evil spirit it makes sense to me why this man at this point is now at the end of his rope. He finally got to the people closest to Jesus and they couldn't even help him.
So finally turning to Jesus as his last and only help,(that's a message in itself) in a moment of desperation says, "have mercy on us and help us if you can." The Message translation reads: "if you can do anything, do it." When I go back and read this, I feel this man’s desperation. This man was defeated long before he even reached Jesus and His disciples. He has watched his son suffer with this condition practically his whole life...and finally he gets to Jesus and basically says, "I understand if you can't do it either, but off some small chance, off some small whim....if you could...please help us". Now I'd be lying if I said I didn't know where this man was coming from. Have you ever dealt with something for so long and it just felt like it was never going to get better? Have you ever been in such a place where you just didn't know how God was going to turn the situation around and work it out for your good? Or in the case of this man, "if" God was even able to do it because it had never been done before? No, just me? I felt for this man. He had tried everything to release this stronghold from his son and by the time he gets to Jesus he has such little faith left.
"I think one of the worst mistakes we as Christians can make is trying to be somewhere spiritually where we're not."
Apparently, Jesus didn't like that answer, because in verse 23, Jesus basically “let this man know” (if you know me, you know exactly how I said this lol). He says, “’If!?’ What do you mean ‘if’ I can!? Don't you know who I am!? All things are possible if a person truly believes.” Then the man cries out in total humility,(verse 24) “Lord, I do believe…but help me overcome my unbelief.” Whew. We have to stop right here. I think one of the worst mistakes we as Christians can make is trying to be somewhere spiritually where we’re not. I know we all want to be that “spiritually mature Christian” that never questions or doubts God, but we are really doing a disservice to our relationship with Christ by not allowing Him to meet us exactly where we are…or in most cases where we’re really not. Yes, this man was weak enough in his faith to ask “if” God was able, but he then became strong enough to admit he struggled with unbelief. We cannot fool God. He looks past our words and does a deep search into our hearts. Therefore, we must always be honest with God about the true conditions of our heart. How can we ever expect God to build up our areas of weakness, unless we admit to Him where we’re not strong?
"Therefore, we must always be honest with God about the true conditions of our heart."
I also want to encourage that person who has been waiting on God to fix that “condition” in their life. You feel that so much time has passed and you’re feeling more discouraged then expectant. You’re starting to feel like the father in this story and you’re prayers are including a number of “if you can’s” and “if you could’s” out of unbelief’s that God might ever come through on His promise. Stay encouraged. There are so many things to learn from this passage, but one very important thing to remember is it doesn’t matter how much time has passed. It doesn't matter how long you've been dealing with this stronghold. God is faithful to do what He said He’d do in your life. However, we must believe that He is able to do it. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” He is moved by our faith and He moves by our faith. So if you haven’t already, from this point forward….learn how to be completely honest with God. He already knows the area’s where you’re lacking so we can stop pretending to be strong when we’re really weak. God’s power works best in our weakness. For like Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why I take pleasure in my weakness….for when I’m weak, that’s when I’m really strong.”