Three years. Three years they had to walk alongside him, to laugh with him, to eat with him, to learn from him and be changed by him. The disciples of Jesus had three years of close contact with the God who created them, healed them and ministered to them and with them. They had a front row seat to his miracles and the unworldly grace and mercy he showed to those that came near.
I can’t call myself a disciple, as they were, in my own walk with Jesus. Yet my own relationship with him began over thirty years ago. I’ve had over thirty years – over thirty years’ time spent talking with him in prayer, feeling his words speak directly into my heart through his Word, being transformed by his unbelievable grace, mercy and healing. I’ve learned even in the most desperate pain-filled hours that He is with me, holding me up, helping me walk on, and much to my amazement even giving me joy in the midst of pain.
Yesterday I was reading John 6. Jesus is talking to the people he’d just fed the day before, when he miraculously turned five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed over five thousand, with enough left over to fill twelve large baskets. Late that day, the disciples leave by boat for Capernaum, across the Sea of Galilee. Overnight, Jesus leaves the shore crossing the sea by foot. A storm hits in the middle of the night and Jesus appears to the disciples who’re already afraid, but even more upon seeing him. He tells them not to be afraid. “It’s me,” he says and enters the boat. The next day the people realize Jesus is no longer with them. They know he didn’t leave with the disciples and they immediately board boats to seek after him in Capernaum. There they confront him, asking when he’d arrived. His response to them is profound.
“You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.
Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
John 6:26-27 (The Message)
I was struck by his words and saddened, because my own inattention to him was glaringly obvious to me. I had to ask myself a painfully difficult question and be honest about my answer. Am I seeking him for what he can give me or do I seek to know him, just to know him? My heart was pricked by the fact that like those people he spoke with in John 6, I’ve not always just sought him and him alone, but often for the help or healing he can bring.
Why? I have no excuse. In all honesty, I think it boils down to fear and getting caught up in the difficulties of each day. Yet I already know that when I seek him alone, fear melts away. Eleven years ago, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was two weeks after my first child was born, my mom’s first grandson. With her diagnosis, there was much fear and pain. Questions asking why were eventually put aside and the initial grief over the diagnosis was replaced with the knowledge that God himself was walking this road with us. He hadn’t abandoned my mom and would continue to be there for her and for us, her family. Prayers were and continue to be offered up on her behalf. It’s a natural thing to pray for help and healing. In fact, we’re commanded to bring our cares to God, because he cares like no other.
The other day I received news that this disease I hate has begun to progress even more in my mom. This disease that has ravaged her brain and is stealing away her precious memories piece by piece is taking even more of her, of who she is, threatening to steal away even her dignity. Deep down I know it can’t, because dignity is something that is God-given and simply is. Yet, the disease is there.
With this news, I have a choice to make – a choice to panic, to become embittered or to simply go to the one who cares, who’s proven time and time again to be the only real choice. Yet along with seeking his help, I also know that too often I come to him just asking for healing and help with whatever situation’s on the horizon. I’ve experienced God’s presence and its’ perfect, sublime simplicity that covers over any and every storm. And yet, I come to him in this state. He’s given me peace “that passes understanding” and I trade it for panicked pleas for help.
When I remember his perfect, sustaining peace at moments like this, my only desire is to know him. Because apart from desiring more of him and knowing him, there is no peace. I’ve learned this the hard way. He really is enough. My choice is to know him more today. Whatever situation you find yourself in today, if you find yourself outside of that perfect peace, come to him and seek him alone. If it’s peace you’re seeking, Jesus really is the only way.
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