Book Review: Help My Unbelief (Barnabas Piper)

Book review by James Jeffery

How can I trust in a God I can’t see? What do I do when God seems to be ignoring my prayers? Doesn’t God understand that trusting in Him is difficult?

These are just some of the questions that Help My Unbelief addresses and does so in a winsome and compassionate way. No matter how long you have been a Christian, this book is written for you, as all believers wrestle with God in faith as we come to know Him more. 

Those who are looking for a list of 10 steps to have faith in God will not be satisfied, as Piper reveals faith is not merely cognitive assent to Biblical doctrines, but a living relationship with the Triune God. Doubt, Piper argues, is a natural element of any relationship, though it is critical we have the right sort of doubt.

Arguably the most helpful distinction Piper makes in the book is between the unbelieving doubt that characterises those who scoff at God, and the genuine doubt Christians regularly experience.

“When unbelieving doubt poses a question, it is not interested in the answer for any reason other than to disprove it. Unbelieving doubt is on the attack. It is much more interested in the devastating effect of the question itself to erode the asker’s belief and hope in what is being questioned. The asker is not asking to learn; she is asking in order to devastate” (p. 83)

In contrast to unbelieving doubt…

“Believing doubt is that which strengthens our beliefs. Instead of letting unbelief in, it ventures out in faith and seeks to waylay it. Just as unbelieving doubt is against belief, this sort of doubt is the driving force behind belief… It is not merely intellectual sparring, but rather spiritual engagement through the Holy Spirit” (p. 84)

Such a distinction is utterly needed in a day and age when Christians can feel false guilt after having wrestled with God and will likewise expose the hearts of those who are not genuinely seeking God, but rather to win an argument. The book’s title and premise are grounded in the words of the father in Mark 9 who called upon Jesus in faith to dispel a demon from his son.

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

This is the great paradox which every Christian contends with as we strive to grow in trusting God.

The great strength of this book is how it tackles the two great myths regarding faith that we are prone to believing.

Myth #1: We live in an age of instant gratification, and this means that it is easy for Christians and non-Christians alike to expect God to operate on our timetables, often dismissing Him if He doesn’t respond to our cries instantaneously. Piper pastorally leads readers through Gods Word to see that faith in God is a dynamic, living, and sometimes gruelling relationship. Genuine faith is that which anchors itself in God’s character and His promises, despite the changing tides of life.

Myth #2: A commonly held belief amongst evangelicals that an increased knowledge of the Bible equals greater maturity in Christ. Piper debunks these false views with Scripture and his own experience, having grown up in a Christian household and yet having lived a double life for much of his life. Piper highlights the child-like humility we ought to have as we approach God, not as an object to be studied, but a person to be known.

Out of all the different people who will read this book, I believe that those who grew up in Christian households will resonate most with the words of Piper. What makes this book so real is Piper’s raw and honest sharing of his own struggles with faith, including the salient challenges of being a pastor’s son.

If like me, you often struggle to trust in God, Help My Unbelief is for you. If you have a non-Christian friend who is struggling to trust in God because they can’t see Him, this book is for you to buy for them. If you raised your children as believers but they have strayed from the Lord, seriously consider blessing them with this book.  

I cannot recommend this book more highly, as by the grace of God, it had a truly indelible impact on my heart at a critical point in my life. The reality is, we all must My prayer is that it would have the same effect on you as you come to know and love our Creator and Redeemer.

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