When my recently widowed mom became ill with double pneumonia, I felt the common regret of living far from family. She was in one country, I was in another with 3430 miles of stormy Atlantic Ocean between us.
I desperately wanted to go and be with her. I wanted to help care for her. But I couldn’t. I had to rely on the rest of my family who lived near her. Fortunately, they love her as much as I do and I knew I could depend on them.
Over the next few weeks, there was a flurry of emails and phone calls between me and my brothers and my daughter, to work out visiting and care and meals after she was released from the hospital. Family members did what I couldn’t do: they brought her to and from the hospital, shoveled snow from her walk, stocked her refrigerator with meals, brought her flowers, visited her in the hospital and afterwards at home.
It made me think what it’s like for how God loves us. Although He is present spiritually, He usually doesn’t insert Himself into our physical realm–and when He does, we call in a miracle. 2000 years ago, He came and lived among us, but then He returned to heaven. Now, having brought us into His family, He tells us to care for one another. In fact, just so there wouldn’t be any doubt about it, He said, “This is My command: Love each other.” John 15:17
Now He relies on us to do His acts of caring. He wants us to be His hands and feet and voice to those whom He loves. Instead, I want Him to do a miracle.
I’m human, with limited time and resources [and love, if I’m honest about it.] So when I’m confronted with people’s needs, I ask the all-powerful God to do something. I see people who are sick in body or soul or mind or heart. “Heal them,” I say to God. “Help them. Do something.” My heart is in the right place, but it strikes me that my request sounds an awful lot like a command.
And I wonder how many times I ask God to help someone and walk away before He has a chance to answer me with His own question. “Can you help them for Me?”
This is what happened with the feeding of the 5000. The disciples saw the hungry crowd and came to Jesus and told Him what to do. “We’re in a remote place. It’s late. Send these people away to get food.” [Mark 6:35-36]
How did Jesus respond? Did He snap His fingers and produce a feast? No. He said, “You give them something to eat.”
Even then, the disciples had an answer for Him. They pointed out how much it would cost and wondered if that was really the best use of their money. That’s close to the answer I often give God when He asks me for His help: “I don’t have that enough to solve the problem. Besides, am I responsible for everyone? You’re the miracle worker, not me.”
“Well, what do you have?” God asks me. “Is there some way you can help?”
He’s right of course. Many times, the people I’m praying for are not on the other side of the ocean, they live in my world here. And if they do live elsewhere, thanks to technology, I can call them, I can webcam with them, I can send them an email that reaches them in a flash.
But it’s a lot easier to ask God to wave His magic wand. It’s harder to be part of the answer to my own prayer because that means I have to pay attention and think about how I can help. I probably have to spend time or give resources and money or use emotional energy. And it’s true that I’m limited. I can’t do everything. But I can do something. I may have only five loaves of bread, but that’s five to share.
I’ve heard some amazing stories in the past few weeks about people who shared what was in their basket: no more than a shirt, a coat, a towel given to someone in need. Years later, those who received these simple gifts began to follow Jesus for themselves. Why? Because they had seen His care, they had touched tokens of His encouragement. They had experienced His love for them, through the hands and hearts of His followers.
It’s risky for me to talk with God about the needy people in my life. He’s depending on me to be His partner and share His redeeming love. I’m part of His answer. And who knows what will happen when I get involved? It can be a little scary but it can also be exciting. For as I offer what I have to share, maybe I’ll become part of His miracle.
What about you?
How can you be the answer to your own prayer?
What’s in your basket?
Who is God asking you to share it with?