It seemed like a normal Sunday morning.
I arrived at corporate worship more than slightly distracted: tests were on the horizon, papers loomed heavy, I was exhausted. I wanted a nap. I wanted to stay home and watch Netflix. I didn’t want to think about the Bible. To be honest, I desired a hundred things other than Christ’s presence.
Then worship began, and we sang this lyric:
I will glory in my Redeemer,
My life he bought, my love he owns.
I have no longings for another,
I’m satisfied in Him alone.
I felt the cognitive dissonance immediately. In that moment my heart wasn’t like Asaph’s who sang, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). How then could I sing that I have no longings for another and not be a complete hypocrite? I felt like crawling under the pew in front of me.
So what do we do with passages of Scripture—or lyrics in worship songs—that describe an ideal that does not match our reality? Is it possible to affirm them from the heart without pretense or posturing?
Pray: Help My Unbelief!
When confronted with these types of incongruences, we should not wallow in despair. Instead, we must remember that God is a God who uses means to accomplish his ends. He is the Sovereign Lord who uses prayer to bring about preordained realities and uses his written word to create the very truths of which it speaks. So when we come across a verse that describes an ideal we have not yet attained, we can use it as an opportunity to pray that God would move in our hearts to make it so.
In Mark 9, we are given a helpful and instructive story from the life of Jesus. In verse 18, Jesus’ disciples are unable to cast a spirit from a demon-possessed child. So in verse 22, the father of the child turns instead to Jesus and pleads, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help.” Jesus immediately responds, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23).
As he speaks these words, notice two things: First, Jesus is speaking an ideal; namely, if you believe, then all things are possible. Second, the man realizes that he does not live up to that ideal. He knows it’s true, but he doesn’t perfectly believe that Jesus can help. So what does the father do? He cries out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). In other words, he acknowledges that although he believes the ideal, his faith is deficient and therefore asks Jesus to create the faith in his heart. And we see that Jesus answers his prayer: faith is created and the boy is healed (Mark 9.25–26″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Mark 9:25–26, Mark 9.29″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>29).