In an excruciatingly painful season for Jesus, He desperately needed time to Himself, space to grieve.
Reading in Matthew 14…Jesus sought to seclude Himself on a boat immediately following the murder of His dear friend & cousin John the Baptist. His efforts thwarted by crowds from nearby towns, thousands with needs & expectations swarmed the shore crying out to Him. Despite His own personal agony Christ’s compassionate heart compelled Him to spend the day teaching, healing and serving the masses. By nightfall, He and the disciples gathered up 12 baskets of leftovers from feeding thousands. The day expended, the disciples departed at His request and Jesus finally seized time alone to pray.
Can you picture this? Jesus, completely exhausted after a lengthy day of meeting others’ needs, withdrew to a hillside for time alone with God. Far into the night He sat at the feet of Abba, poured out His heart, pressed in to hear from the Father, drank from the cup of God’s hand, laid back against Him to rest, listened to God’s heartbeat. He tarried there for hours drawing strength, renewing His peace. Matthew 14:25 indicates between 3-6 a.m. Jesus returned to His disciples and found them in a boat battling strong winds and choppy waves. In the midst of a horrendous squall Christ calmly walked across the water.
The Lord’s day began with an emotional whirlwind of His loved one’s death and ended with a fitful tempest at sea. Yet between the two storms, Christ intentionally accessed all He needed to not only endure but to bless others. He pushed the pause button on His life’s demands to seek Jehovah Shalom…the God of Peace…and because of this He walked in confidence, in strength and in complete peace even in the midst of atrocious upheaval.
The storms of life are torrential at times. Loved ones battle cancer, finances dwindle due to lengthy unemployment, children rebel, spouses betray, depression demolishes the will to go on, sickness and pain ravage bodies, violence devastates women & children, drunken drivers end innocent lives, soldiers come home missing limbs or in body bags. Storms rage all around us. In those moments of utter despair when we feel we can’t go another step, God whispers to us,
“Come away with me to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31
Even in His own time of profound sorrow Jesus was aware of the suffering of others around Him. He showed great compassion for them, serving them not out of duty but from the recesses of His heart. After meeting the demands pressing in from every direction He renewed His strength by stealing away to a quiet place to rest a while in the arms of the Father. His was not a passive few moments of small talk with God but a prolonged outpouring of His heart and an expectation that He would hear from God and be renewed. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by His circumstances, Christ was overwhelmed by the love God lavished on Him in those moments of seeking.
In my quest to become more like Christ, I pray I’m mindful that time to care for others is a gift. I pray for compassion to serve them from the depths of my heart even as I am grieving my own painful circumstances. Matthew 14 reminds me the key is intentionally spending soul-satisfying time alone with my Father, to cast all my cares on Him, listen expectantly for His voice and drink from the cup of His hand just as Jesus did, overwhelmed by His love, bathed in grace and peace. In seeking Him I am able to stand even in the midst of the most harrowing storms.
“And you shall find me when you search for me with all your heart…” Jeremiah 29:13