When You Got Nothing Left, Do This (and Change the World!)

Jesus’ disciples were a lot like moms: exhausted and constantly surrounded by needy people.

As I read the story of the feeding of the five thousand last week, I saw what was happening behind the scenes instead of the typical flannel graph telling of the miracle. Jesus had just sent out his twelve disciples two by two on a journey. He gave them authority over unclean spirits and they hit the road with just one pair of sandals and one tunic.

They depended upon the hospitality of strangers to feed them and house them, and they proclaimed repentance and healed many. Then it says: “The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.” (Mark 6:30-32 ESV, emphasis mine)

You’ve been there too, right? So busy with the demands of kids/household/job that there’s no time to sit and eat? Jesus understood. He booked a trip to the middle of nowhere for some much needed rest.

But their plans for a restful retreat were thwarted. A crowd is already waiting for them — desperate in their running. Jesus has compassion on them and teaches them.

Rest deferred.

Were the disciples impatient? Were they exasperated with the needs of another crowd? Did they have any compassion left after their mini mission trip? The text doesn’t say, but I can guess. If they’re anything like me, they might have felt exhausted at best, resentful at worst. Eager for a warm meal and a solid night’s sleep.

“And when it grew late…” the story continues. If the disciples were tired before, they are spent now. Probably looking forward to everyone being sent home. “The hour is late. Send them away….” they advise (plead?) Jesus. But it is at this moment that Jesus tells them: “You give them something to eat.”

They reply: “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” Not only is the cost preposterous, but so is the effort required. They are in “a desolate place” and the nearest village is far away. Oh, and it’s getting dark. Oh, and – maybe most importantly – they don’t have it in them.

From this empty place and this empty feeling, Jesus asks them to take stock of what they do have. They hand over five loaves and two fish. In the face of the enormous need of the crowd, it is nothing. Hardly worth mentioning. And from this paltry offering “they all ate and were satisfied.” (Mark 6:42) All five thousand of them (plus the women and children!) got their fill, with 12 basketfulls of leftovers besides. Shocking abundance overflowed from next to nothing.

What must it have been like to be one of the disciples? Was their joyful incredulity plain to see on their faces? To go from having “no leisure even to eat” to having your empty belly “satisfied” is such a beautiful picture to me. It speaks of Jesus’ compassion and extravagant provision. Even more miraculous is God’s ability to take what little we have and turn it into Enough.

I talk to a lot of busy moms who want to grow in their faith and who want to make a difference in the world. Sometimes, those ideas feel out of reach when we are juggling all the demands on our time: from the kids, our marriage, our job. We hardly have the time to take care of our own needs, let alone to address the needs of our broken world!

But what if I told you that you could make a difference just by getting dressed in the morning?

Every day in the month of March, I am going to wear a black item of clothing – the same item, all 31 days. I will partner with Blackout Trafficking to raise funds for anti-trafficking organizations. In this small way, as I stand staring into my closet each day, I will limit my own freedom to bring freedom to others.

Last year, I wore a black dress as my meager loaves-and-fish offering, and you helped me raise $300. This year, I’m hoping that God would move you to join in the fight against human trafficking by picking on black item to wear every day in March. In this way, our impact will be multiplied and this small choice that we make will free the five thousand!

I know how tempting it is to consider our broken world, to face the overwhelming neediness of it, and to want to wring our hands in despair. But God does not call us to save the world. He only asks that you bring him what you’ve got, even if it’s just some crumbs. When you step out in faith, he will do the multiplying!

Will you step out in faith today and register to participate in Blackout Trafficking?

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*Feature Photo by Cody Black on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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