Responding To What Is
“They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” Matthew 15:37
There are often times in my life when I am overwhelmed by the circumstances in which I find myself. These circumstances tend to reveal my limitations, my lack of skills or inadequate resources. The feelings that accompany these moments are often fear, frustration, discouragement and anger. In these times I often walk away with a headache. One of the chief circumstantial causes of these feelings is change. Change disrupts whatever the status quo has been. Change introduces different and potentially new variables into my life. Change of circumstances requires an adjustment on my part and it may be an adjustment I don’t really want to make.
My tendency is to do my best to avoid those kinds of overwhelming circumstances as best I can. This mostly proves to be a fruitless endeavor. Though I may escape for a time what is overwhelming, eventually it seems to catch up to me. In those moments I often choose to focus on what I don’t have available rather than what is available. It pulls me into the “glass half empty” mentality. My frustration with being overwhelmed by circumstances will often influence and shape my responses to others. I easily become moody, impatient, harsh or blaming in my interpersonal relationships. It is not pretty, nor is it the way I would want to be identified by others.
Having read the story of Jesus feeding four thousand people, I am amazed by the response He has in what I would characterize as overwhelming circumstances. He sees the large crowd of people not as an inconvenience or intrusion, but as people for whom He has compassion. He sees their need after three days for food and doesn’t want to send them away hungry. He is not so concerned about Himself as He is for others. He sees and feels differently than I do faced with what might be considered an overwhelming circumstance.
I identify much more with the disciples who find the task of feeding a large hungry crowd immediately impossible and recognize the limitations of their resources. They are faced with a challenge larger than themselves or what they possess. In that moment, out in the remote place, they see how access to food for so many will be a problem they cannot solve based on what they have. For them it might be better to have less compassion and more pragmatism.
Instead of lamenting what is not available Jesus asks and gives thanks for what is available, as limited as it might be. He does not complain about the seven loaves and the few very small fish, but He takes it and begins by giving thanks. The disciples were witnesses of gratefulness to God for what was available. Too much of my time is spent frustrated that I don’t have enough of whatever to meet the demands of what is.
Jesus gave thanks for the resources available and He proved to the disciples again that ultimately their best resource in every kind of circumstance is Jesus. The gifts of bread and fish they had received and relied upon were nothing compared with the gift that Jesus had been, was and would be in their lives. When they were overwhelmed by the storm the gift and resource was Jesus. When the crowds brought out all the broken and sick to the mountainside, the gift and resource was Jesus. When humanity was lost, suffering and in bondage to sin, the gift and resource was Jesus. And it is still the same now. When I become enamored with the things and resources of this world I may miss the primary gift that is Jesus. When I am overwhelmed it is Jesus who possesses all the wisdom and power and provision I need to meet the challenge. His presence with me and for me is something for which I can be constantly grateful.
As Easter approaches the Passover meal will be shared before His final suffering and death on the cross. In that meal the bread will be broken and the cup poured out as symbols of the life Jesus gives for the sake of humanity and their redemption and salvation. But Jesus gives the life He has with gratefulness. He does not complain to His Father about the limited resources available, but gratefully and humbly places all He is and all He has in the hands of the Father to be broken and shared with all humanity for their salvation.
Everyday, in the midst of overwhelming circumstances, I can take heart and be grateful for God’s greatest gift and resource, Jesus, accompanies me, broken and poured out for me. It is the meal of heaven provided by Jesus to first be experienced and then shared with everyone. It is the resource that expands my capacity to have compassion like Jesus in overwhelming circumstances. It is His very presence offered in relationship that enables and empowers a different response to the tumult of overwhelming change experienced in my circumstances. It is His presence with me that inspires compassion rather than frustration, patience rather than impatience, kindness rather than anger and sacrifice rather than selfishness. As I watch Jesus, listen to Jesus and follow Jesus, I witness His compassion and thankfulness in the midst of all the various places of my journey. He provides for me not only the right example but, the abundant power to be transformed in all my responses and all my being to be more like Him.
Today I encourage you to respond to the presence and capacity of Jesus to meet every circumstance with grace, mercy and love. Our trust reliance and security is that He will provide not just enough, but more than enough to satisfy all the world needs. He is out greatest gift and resource and with Him everyday has more than enough reason to be grateful.