Staring at my checkbook, my eyes burned with tears. There just wasn’t any way to make ends meet. Having just endured a long legal battle over the removal of our long-term foster placement, the bills had piled up, and the funds had continued to be sparse.
It seemed unfair. It was unfair. The lump in my throat and the tightness in my chest ached, but I’d gotten used to it. My phone buzzed, and I glanced down at a text from my mom. “Praying for abundance. Try not to worry.” I rolled my eyes with the exaggerated force of an irritated fourteen-year-old school girl.
Since she couldn’t see me, my exasperation was wasted. And truly, she was only trying to keep me afloat with her encouragement. I mumbled to myself, “You’re being really nasty.” I texted her back, “Thnx.” I credited my lack of vowels as some nod to the hopelessness.
Hold on; was I having a tantrum?
I got up from my desk to get another cup of coffee, probably my fifth since I’d dropped the kids at school. I reached into the fridge to grab some creamer and found the container empty. I grunt-snorted my disgust and threw the container in the trash can. I missed. It bounced across the floor, and a few drops dribbled onto my clean floor. I won’t say what I mumbled, but it was not nice. In my defense, I couldn’t help wondering why someone put the container back in the fridge empty.
I opted for a bottle of water and some Rolaids and wandered back to my office to try turning water into wine or pennies into groceries for a family of eight.
The irreverence I babbled aloud might have been mistaken for prayer.
“I don’t know what to do. This isn’t enough money to make it to the next payday. We did what we thought was right, hiring a lawyer to help the baby. Now what? Frankly, it looks really bad from where I’m sitting.”
I was angry with myself, and a tear escaped. I really didn’t want to cry, though. I wanted to be mad. I wanted my unbelief in anything good coming out of this mess to mean something. I felt abandoned and ignored.
I said that out loud, too. “I feel abandoned and ignored.”
I sat staring at the checkbook and the pile of bills next to it. Suddenly, there was no containing the tears, and I let go.
“I don’t believe we’ll ever dig out of this. I feel abandoned and ignored. I don’t know how to pray. I guess that’s my prayer: how do I pray? I am mad. I am sad and scared. I feel hopeless, and I don’t believe.”
The words came to me in a flash. I would have to look up the reference, but I knew this was the answer I craved.
“Lord, help my unbelief.”
Yes, that was it.
“Help my unbelief. Even if we can’t win the lottery. Even if the electricity gets turned off, help my unbelief.”
Heaviness vanished. My lungs burned as I filled them with my first deep breath in what seemed like forever. This was all I knew to pray. I googled the reference. It was Mark 9:24. This was my war cry for the day.
As I vacuumed the boys’ room, I chanted this, one hand held high. I hauled some old clothes to the car to take to a donation station and repeated, methodically “Lord, help my unbelief.” The relief that came from admitting I didn’t believe but still believed I was heard was nothing short of a miracle. My ribs ached from the release of tension I had carried for too long.
I grabbed some string cheese and Tylenol for lunch, and as the aftermath of a tension headache loosened its grip, I continued my prayer. “Help my unbelief.” There is freedom in simply admitting when we doubt instead of lamenting our dashed hopes and woes.
My phone buzzed with another text from my mom. “Still praying, hopeful something will break loose.”
Nothing had. No funds had magically appeared. I doubted it would be okay. But admitting it and turning my unbelief into a prayer of worship had released a lot of my concerns.
I texted back, “Thanks. I am praying big prayers, too.” I left out no vowels this time.
I trudge on, fully confident that a Father who loves me, who conquered death and knows every hair on my head, is fully able to handle my unbelief.
The peace that surpasses understanding followed me, and my worship raged on. “Father, help my unbelief.”