” the devastation is overwhelming!”
How do we process catastrophic events when we feel helpless to understand the suffering, much less do something about it?
I felt that way after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 – 16 years ago today. I felt that way last month when the severe storms hit Texas. Now Florida is being flooded and facing high wind damage. This storm is not over, as it travels north and west, so the wide-ranging effects are still pending.
What should my response be as Christian, as a person who feels deeply for those who have suffered and those who are suffering right now?
Have you ever thought – What can I DO ?- feeling for those who are suffering is not enough!
Jesus had been teaching and healing people who were following him. There was a huge crowd and it was getting time to address a real need – the physical hunger of the people.
John recalls it this way – John 6:5 –
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
I think this story has a powerful message for me when I am faced with an overwhelming need.
First, Jesus recognized that the people were hungry, and He didn’t send them away. In Matthew’s account of this same story – one of the disciples suggests sending the multitude away to get food for themselves.
- I must recognize what the need is – not “send them away”.
Secondly, Jesus looked around for what was available right there at that time. A boy had 5 loaves and 2 fish. Bless his mother for packing his lunch! Bless that boy for not eating it ahead of time! Jesus took what was available.
- I must use what I have available to meet a need. I should not respond like Philip did and bemoan the fact that “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” I must not think that my contribution is too small to make a difference.
Thirdly, Jesus prayed and gave thanks for those two small fish and those 5 loaves of bread. God multiplied. God was in charge of the results!
- I must be faithful to offer what I can. I should be thankful with what I have to share no matter how small it is. God is faithful to accomplish His will, even multiplying a small offering if He wills.
I am praying for all those suffering around us. I am asking God to show me what I have available to share. I am thanking God for all He is doing and will do in this time of devastating loss.