When a problem is thornier than any other, when many attempts to figure out a puzzling situation all end up in blind alleys, I often think of the story in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.[i] The story is familiar, the principles timely.
The story is centered on Jesus with Peter, James and John, coming down from a truly “mountain top experience.” They rejoined the rest of the disciples, who were embroiled in a dispute with the scribes who were there with a large crowd looking on. The people rushed to Jesus when they saw Him.
Jesus asked what they were arguing about, and one of the people in the crowd said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a spirit that makes him mute. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable.” (Mark 9)
Jesus asked the father a few questions, and the father said, “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help.”
“If You can?” echoed Jesus. All things are possible to him who believes!”
Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”
Jesus rebuked and cast out a demon from the boy, helped him up and went into the house with his disciples, who of course questioned him—“why couldn’t we drive it out?”
The stories in the three gospels differ slightly from each other and in various translations. A composite of Jesus’ response to his disciples’ question would include two main points: They couldn’t cast out the demon “because you have so little faith” and “This kind cannot come out, except by prayer and fasting.”
Now, with all that in mind, let’s go back to thorny and puzzling issues that defy our attempts to figure them out or even know what to do about them.
I know no thornier issue among parents today than that of how to think and what to do about gender dysphoria in one’s own child or how it is being handled in the schools their children attend.
There are resources we recommend for parents and church leaders, of course. Among them are, Embodied, by Preston Sprinkle, Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark Yarhouse, and Emerging Gender Identities by Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky.
Much benefit can come from reading these books, both for parents and for church leaders trying to help them. But keep in mind, that there are some situations that are thornier, more confusing, complicated, and scarier than almost anything else for a parent.
When that is the situation, I know nothing better to do than to acknowledge how small my faith is and echo the father’s cry, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And then turn to Jesus for guidance and direction, starting with the admonition to pray and fast.”
As I write, I think of what I hope will come of the thoughts I have expressed here. I am hoping, . and praying and fasting, in fact…, that the Holy Spirit will move deeply in each person reading these words and that they will become intercessors on behalf of the people who are overwhelmed with worry and fear for their children.
Please join WGA in praying for people with conflicts with their feelings about their gender, their sexual feelings and/or behavior. And pray for the parents for those who are so conflicted. As they agonize over what to do, please make prayerful intercession for them.
[i] Mark 9: 14-28; Matthew 17:14–18; Luke 9:37–42
Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motivation. Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, independent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.
Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.
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