"Faith, in its cognitive sense, is the tension between itself and doubt.” --Rabbi Norman Lamm
A couple of years after my recovery from cancer, I served as the U.S. tour manager for a lively Christian dance and drumming troupe from Uganda called the Destiny Africa Children’s Choir. As the end of the tour approached, I thought about John the Baptist who had a short and specific ministry -- then died (1). I feared that after my brief assignment with the tour, the cancer would return. So, I called on my team of prayer ministers who prayed over me and discerned what was happening in my spirit.
Because of my tendency toward perfectionism, I had put too much faith in my own level of faith. The enemy had tempted me into believing that if my faith was not perfect, I would lose my healing. My prayer ministers pointed out that Jesus heals, not my faith. We know from the Scripture that faith is required for healing to occur (2), but not necessarily perfect faith. We see in the book of Mark that belief and unbelief coexist; yet Jesus still heals (3). Although Abraham often displayed remarkable faith (4), we see throughout the book of Genesis (5) that he often struggled with doubt -- yet, God still credited his faith as righteousness (6). Abraham’s wife Sarah laughed at God’s pledge to give her a child and then lied about her doubt; but God still kept His promise (7). God was faithful even when Abraham and Sarah’s faith wasn’t perfect. When the father of a demon-possessed boy told Jesus, "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief" (8), he was essentially saying, "I believe in you, Jesus, but I am struggling to believe that my son can be healed." I love the honesty expressed in that passage.
Jesus wants us to believe in our healing (9), but when we are confronted with doubt, He is kind and patient. Sometimes when we don’t have faith ourselves, He provides a friend to have faith for us. When the paralyzed man couldn’t get to Jesus on his own, he relied on his friends to break through the roof (10). Likewise, sometimes we need help from others to break through the obstacles that keep us from entering the Lord’s presence, whether those obstacles are physical, emotional, or spiritual. My prayer ministers did that for me.
It is natural for cancer fighters and long-term survivors to encounter the tension between faith and doubt. This is not something to be ashamed of. (In fact, many people experience this tension whether they have cancer or not.) God is a compassionate Father, and when we are honest about our unbelief, He won’t let it disrupt His blessing. The truth is, doubt can become the means through which our faith is ultimately strengthened. I offered my unbelief to God in faith and repentance and found rest in His faithfulness. I encourage you to do the same. Even when our faith is imperfect, our Friend and Savior, Jesus, is more than able to make up the difference.
(1) Luke 3:1-20, Mark 6:22-32
(2) e.g., Matthew 9:22, Mark 9:23, Mark 10:52, Acts 14:9, 10
(3) Mark 9:17-27
(4) e.g., Genesis 22:1-18
(5) e.g., Genesis 15:8, 17:17-18
(6) Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3
(7) Genesis 18:12, 15; Genesis 21:1
(8) Mark 9:24
(9) Mark 9:19, 23
(10) Mark 2:1-5
Joellen Putnam is the founder of ACTIVATE THE CURE, a prayer ministry for those who are impacted by cancer. She is also a cancer survivor who lives in Connecticut with her husband as well as her daughter and son (when they are home from college).