Are you experiencing some underlying exhaustion while preparing to make joyful new Christmas memories?
Larry and I love the Christmas season! Yet we are coming into festivities with some battle fatigue and frayed nerves from parenting our daughter with disabilities. We have been short on respite for months while sleep, behavior, and health issues have also been challenging.
A recent doctor appointment offered yet another affirming but sigh-triggering report. Carly’s specialist kindly said, “You guys know just what to do and you do a really good job it. Unfortunately, this is a very complicated condition and there are few effective ways to treat it. The methods we would typically try will not be an option for Carly because of her developmental issues and limited communication abilities.” Fortunately, this physician also had some new suggestions to try in hopes of bringing us all some relief. We’re working the process.
In the meantime, we will very gladly push through weariness for the benefits this festive family season brings.
Such can be the life when parenting a child with complex health issues or developmental disabilities. Parents can find themselves dealing with a lot of trial-and-error, feeling very inadequate to help. Sometimes, we simply have very little to offer our big situations.
We need God to multiply our efforts and the fruit of those efforts the way he did for Jesus and his disciples!
That evening the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”
“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.
“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
This passage isn’t just about the multiplication of food. It is about God multiplying the limited physical and emotional resources Jesus had at hand.
The placement of this story in Matthew’s fourteenth chapter is interesting. It reports one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles, but it immediately follows a significant moment in Jesus personal life. It is a moment of deep grief, and it can easily get lost. Yet it carries a helpful and inspiring message for us who have been called by God to care for others when we ourselves feel weak or depleted.
“As soon as Jesus heard the news (about John the Baptist’s death), he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Jesus wanted to be by himself. He had lost a dear friend and cousin. He likely felt somewhat responsible for John’s death too. Grief is exhausting. Possibly He needed rest. He may have wanted to find a safe space to express his raw emotions. Surely, He would also pray.
Despite Jesus’ desire to get away from the crowds, He tapped into two things that empowered Him to serve beyond himself:
God’s Indwelling Power
Jesus was often motivated by compassion (Matthew 15:32, Mark 6:34, Luke 7:13). We can ask God to give us a vision to care for others that is moved by compassion too. We also have the Holy Spirit in us to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
When the many needs of our families and a busy holiday season are pressing in like a “huge crowd,” we may desperately want to set some boundaries, find rest, even grieve some disappointments. Periods of separation in a quiet place are fair, appropriate and necessary. Jesus frequently modeled boundaries and rest. But He also shows us there will be times to engage with the needs of others, even when it is very hard. Even when we may rather be somewhere else.
And He will supply.
The God of compassion — the One who fills all things with Himself (Ephesians 4:10) — will fill you with His comfort and mercy to extend to those in your care.
He will make much of your little.
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:13, 19
Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families.