Then Jesus answered, “O Faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (Matthew 17:17)

Christ is patient with our failings and weaknesses. That we have a Savior who is prone to give mercy rather than intolerance is comforting to our souls. As the scripture says,

Psalm 103:13-17: As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. for He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust … But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him.

But God’s mercy and patience do not mean that He finds our sins justifiable or excusable. In fact, the need for patience indicates that something is wrong. We have not done what we should have, or we have done what we should not have, or that we are slow to grow in faith and obedience as we should – otherwise God would have no cause for patience.

Christ’s lament was not the intolerance of the human spirit – we can say similar things about others while ignoring our own weaknesses. No, He was no hypocrite and Christ’s expressed here the heart of God. We lack faith. We are twisted – this is what the word “perverse” means – something is crooked in our perspective that should be straight. The common teachings of His day blamed people for their own problems, and rather than coming alongside a grieving father over the condition of his son, they passed by in judgment. Yet they lacked the faith to resolve the matter. Their powerlessness in the face of such problems showed their true spiritual condition.

We live in a similar age. I am often appalled at the expressions of anger and hatred that people express in the public medias. Where is mercy and love and faith and compassion? Where is patience and forgiveness? These things have too often disappeared with the times and all that is left too often is a haughty intolerant condemnation, even while the person expressing it asks for understanding himself.

Christ said to the father, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). Christ promised to heal if the father had faith. Not that faith was a power that enabled Christ to heal, but that faith was of such importance in life and in the world, that He would not heal until it was present. Mark recorded the father’s plea, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) – a prayer that his faith might increase, the prayer that any father should pray.

In fact, the father’s prayer was two-fold – for his son and for himself – and this is always the way we should pray. “Lord, change the circumstance and change my heart in the midst of the circumstance.” And between these two requests, it is always the human heart where the greater miracle needs to take place.

We want God to resolve our problems, and, in fact, see our physical and material problems as the greater burdens we carry in life. God, however, sees our lack of faith as the greater problem of our heart. “All things are possible to him who believes.” This does not mean that God will do all that we ask Him to do – for surely we often ask for the wrong things, or it may simply not be His will to do what we ask. But faith changes us, changes our perspective, removes the fear and anxiety of our hearts, comforts us in the face of difficult things. Faith looks at suffering, even lives through suffering, and still says, “It is well with my soul.” Faith removes the limitations that we feel and fear, and allows us to see the hand of God in us and all around us.

Christ lamenting over our faithlessness was not a self-pitying cry on His behalf, rather it was an expression from the heart of God that we might possess the one thing we need the most – simple trust in Him. The one who cries out for healing, for a physical miracle, lacks faith in some way or another. The one who trusts God in the face of problems, and says, “Lord, no matter what, I place this situation and my loved one, even my own heart in your hands,” that person invites God to do what only God can do. Where faith flourishes, all things are possible – miracles, divine endurance, great inner peace and calm.

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