The natural compassion of the human spirit never fails to respond to people in need. For example, whatever their politics or economics, countries pledged volunteers, money, and supplies to Haiti. They came pouring in over the days and weeks following the earthquake there.
So great was the outpouring of support that just managing the flow of donations was difficult for those engaged in the relief efforts. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem when disasters strike and the world’s people respond. Especially following a crisis, local governments are understandably unequipped to manage or distribute what assistance is available. Volunteers can quickly become frustrated by thwarted attempts to help.
Certainly this outpouring of love and generosity cannot be in vain. A favorite prayer of mine from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor, is this: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (p. 494). So if an outpouring of help is divine Love’s response, then it also has to include the means to get that help to the ones who need it.
A well-known Bible story provides some valuable insight. On one occasion, as the Gospel of Mark relates, Jesus spent three days preaching to more than 4,000 individuals (see Mark 8:1–9). When they had nothing to eat, he told his disciples of the compassion he felt for the people and that he wanted to feed them all so that as they returned home, they didn’t “faint by the way.” Many of them had traveled a long distance.
When taking stock of the available food supply, his disciples found only seven loaves of bread and a few fish. They quickly saw the roadblocks to feeding the people. First, there wasn’t enough food to feed 4,000 people, and there clearly weren’t other supplies nearby. They asked Jesus, “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” While the Gospel doesn’t elaborate on the details of their concerns, perhaps they wondered how they would divide what was there. Maybe they were worried that their insufficient supply of food for so many would cause chaos and confusion.
But Jesus proved that his motive was right and that an infinite God, good, does meet every need. He saw past the disciples’ concerns and told the multitudes to sit down. And then he prayed. He gave thanks for the food they did have, blessed it, and gave it to the disciples, expecting them to distribute it to everyone. What strikes me is what I see as Jesus’ confidence that because there was a need, God would meet that need. He calmly trusted that divine intelligence would lead, and he moved forward with the task. Under God’s care, they couldn’t help but succeed.
From previous experience, the disciples must have known they could trust that Jesus was praying and God was with him. They obediently followed his lead and began to distribute food to the masses. And as they did, somehow the food never ran out. In fact, a lot was left over.
Reading this with our modern-day challenges in mind, I realized that a right motive, a quiet trust, and a calm spirit can enable us to pray with confidence for people in crisis situations and to support those who need to methodically work through what seem to be impossible situations. We may not know where the food will come from, how it will be distributed, or how to keep peace in the process. Nevertheless, as we can learn from so many Bible stories, “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Sometimes just knowing that simple truth is enough.