I’ve been heavy-hearted lately as I scrolled down my newsfeed. What used to be a landscape teeming with life has morphed into a valley of the shadow of death. If death welds a sickle, then covid is that sickle.
Just the other day, a good friend posted that he had to bring his covid-positive mother to another city because the medical facilities would be better there. Then another good friend, a pastor whom I dearly love and respect, was stricken with covid himself. Another had to camp outside a hospital waiting for a bed to be vacant.
Multiply this several months over, I might as well be reading hospital records. Not all have happy endings. Sometimes the foray into those records leads to the morgue.
How to cope? I’ve learned an important secret from a time when Jesus couldn’t mourn a personal loss as He served a large crowd who sought, nay, stalked Him for healing. The on-line equivalent would be posts and PMs bombarding Him for answers, relief, and deliverance.
Jesus had just heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded, the grisly outcome of a woman’s machination and her husband’s spinelessness. It may surprise you that Jesus and John were relatives. The popular view is that they were cousins. Their respective mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, were kinswomen.
Recall also that John had the unique role of being the long-prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. Jesus Himself lauded John as more than a prophet and that among those born of women, there was none greater than John.
Thus, news of John’s execution must have hit Jesus hard. He withdrew by boat to a solitary place. Yet when the crowd learned about His whereabouts, they followed Him on foot, without considering to give Him some me-time.
When Jesus saw the crowd, He could have told them off “C’mon guys! Gimme a break!” Lessen men would burn out, even melt down.
Prolonged exposure to humanity’s woes would weigh down anyone’s spirit. We see it in the haggard countenances of the front-liners. Where there is doom-scrolling, compassion fatigue won’t be far behind.
We also get to wish we can wave some magic wand and make all the pain go away, but are reduced to crying out to God, wondering if He will give the thumbs up or thumbs down. Sure, there are the miracle stories; a person recovers and attributes it to the goodness of God. But what about those who didn’t? What is the logical – and unspeakable – inference? Hey, Christians should be critical thinkers, too.
But we see Jesus, His heart breaking for losing John and for the large crowds, the sheep without the shepherd. He reached out. He even fed them; this was the famous feeding of the 5,000, and that’s just the men. Intriguingly, Facebook allows no more than 5,000 friends in your timeline.
What’s the secret? It was that Jesus loved the solitary places. It was His time to be alone and be still, to allow Himself to grieve, to commune with His Father.
Digital detox is good, but is far better when done in the presence of God. In our own sacred nooks – be it your attic, a park bench, a church sanctuary – there, we can curate our own healing, recover our moorings, and abate any creeping cynicism.
The by-product is that I no longer need to dread my FB. As I re-engage my world through FB, I can have the inner resources to comfort, to nurture, to intercede. This comes from drawing from a Well that never runs dry, even though hospitals are running out of beds and oxygen.
There are the gray and blah days when we can all use a good cheer. But there is the Good News that Jesus has come to seek and save the lost.
Do you know this Jesus?
The main passage is Matthew 14. That Mary and Elizabeth were relatives is supported by Luke 1:35. Jesus’s high commendation of John is found in Matthew 11:7-15.
Photo credit from Forbes