Do you ever find it hard to be grateful this time of year? Not that you aren’t sincerely thankful deep down, but experiencing the emotion of gratitude in a real way can be challenging during this busy season. Especially when the pressure is on to do all of the holiday things, while keeping your sanity and trying to live #blessed.
“There is so much to be grateful for” echoes in my mind as I engineer the schedule to fit school conferences, work meetings and planning sessions. At the last minute I might throw caution to the wind and schedule a coffee date because miraculously, I still have friends who get me and my weird life.
I am sincerely, truly grateful, but I’m also kinda tired. When the day to day wears me out, it is all too easy to drift into self-preservation mode. It’s hard to be thankful, because my blessings also make me want to take a nap.
I was recently reading in Matthew 14:13-21 about the miracle of Jesus feeding a crowd of five thousand people. While many may be familiar with this story, something I hadn’t noticed is what happens right before it. Jesus gets word that his cousin, John the Baptist, was dead, cruelly executed by King Herod. Jesus slips away to a solitary place, no doubt to pray and grieve and regroup, but before His boat even lands at his destination, the crowds that had been following Him, caught up and were pressing in on all sides, desperate for Jesus to speak to them and heal them.
As the day turns to evening, the crowd grows hungry. The disciples’ resources are few and their inclination is, understandably, to send the people away. After all, they only have five loaves of bread and two fish, there’s not a lot of daylight left, and they are out in the middle of nowhere.
And then there’s Jesus.
When He sees all the people before Him, He has compassion. He sees past the inconvenience and the overwhelming logistics, straight to their hearts. In the middle of His own grief and fatigue, Jesus loves them and heals them.
It would have been understandable if He didn’t feel up to the task, but Jesus saw things from an eternal perspective. He regularly spent time alone with God the Father and knew the Source of His strength and perseverance. Because of this, instead of being overwhelmed, burned out and ineffective, Jesus had the strength and power He needed in that very moment.
While the disciples fret about what they lack, Jesus prepares to do miraculous work and invites the disciples to be a part of it. Jesus asks them what they do have and instructs them to bring it to Him. He takes their meager offering, looks up toward heaven and gives thanks to God. Then Jesus multiplies their resources to bless and sustain the people in the crowd: physically by feeding all of them (with leftovers to spare) and spiritually, by building up their faith in God and all that He is capable of doing.
Sometimes, when we feel like we’re a few loaves and fishes short of a miracle, it’s easy to start thinking that what we have isn’t enough for God to do anything meaningful with. But what if instead of stressing about what we lack, we brought what we do have to the One who is infinitely more creative and resourceful? I can imagine Jesus looking toward heaven, thanking God for our meager offering and then using it to do exponentially more than we could ever have imagined.
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
Colossians 2:6-8 NLT
Just like the disciples who followed Jesus, we cannot multiply loaves and fishes on our own. But we can stay close to the One who can. Jesus continued to spend time regularly with the Father, being filled and replenished so that He could continue His work on earth. We too must spend time regularly with the Father and continue to follow Jesus so that our roots can grow deep and we can be filled. We can build our lives on Christ and in doing so, our faith is built up as we witness God at work (even in our craziness of life). We will then overflow with thankfulness out of the fullness of our hearts. What a thought to be overwhelmed not by life’s pressures and stress, but with genuine gratitude as Jesus works in us and through us!
So as the calendar fills up and you feel spread thin, my question to you is this: What do you have? What can you bring to Jesus? Bring Him whatever you got! When you follow close to Him, and build your life on the unwavering foundation of Christ, He can use even the most unlikely of things to do amazing miracles!