It has happened to all of us at one time or another. We have found ourselves facing something that feels like an impossible situation. We have all come to a place where the problem in front of us is much larger than what we have the ability to resolve, or take down. A struggle that feels like there is no way out, or that the way out is far too difficult for us to navigate on our own.
Maybe you are saving to buy a home, but the time frame and the dollars are not lining up. Maybe you desperately want to change jobs, but the opportunities and the offers don’t seem to make sense. Maybe there is a rift in an important relationship that feels as though it will never be right again. My guess is that these types of situations are possibly even keeping you awake at night. You wonder and worry and even pray, but the truth is, you just can’t seem to see how it will work out.
The disciples had a similar situation.
The disciples were Jesus’ students, but they were also His helpers. Jesus was going all around Judea, teaching, healing, and performing signs and wonders. Often there were large crowds that followed Him out of town to hear and see Him. The disciples would have had big tasks as they traveled. They had to set up camp each time their location changed. They were managing the crowds that followed Jesus, trying to keep things moving. They were attempting to tend to Jesus’ human needs, as well as meeting their own basic daily needs. They were constantly on the move.
The account in Matthew 14:13-21 finds them in just such a situation.
This account in scripture is called the Feeding of the 5,000. But by all accounts, that number is far lower than the size that the crowd truly was. Scripture states that there were 5,000 men, not including the women and children that could have been present. The crowd could have very easily been closer to 20,000.
I have been to professional sporting events with crowds numbering around that amount. It is a massive amount of individual living, breathing, and potentially hungry people. What they were facing was no small feat.
Back to the story….
Jesus had just learned of the beheading of His cousin, John The Baptist. In His sadness, He took a boat and tried to get away to a private place to grieve. But the crowds heard that He was on the move, and followed Him where He went. As always, Jesus had compassion on them and began to heal their sick, once He had docked the boat. He does this for many hours, and now it is approaching evening, or dinner time. They are all far from home, and far from food. (And even farther from Chick Fil-A!). There were no local conveniences for them to fall back on.
The disciples see the problem for what it is: There’s a hungry crowd that could potentially become a hungry mob. And they think they understand the solution. They tell Jesus to “Send the crowds away so they can go buy themselves some food”. That seems fair. It seems reasonable and simple.
But Jesus had another plan. One designed to show His power and authority over all creation. He told them “They don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat.”
At this moment, the disciples are trying to solve a God sized problem with man sized resources. They tell Jesus “We have here only five loaves of bread (think dinner rolls) and two fish.” They were facing what Dallas Jenkins (creator of The Chosen series) calls, “Impossible math”.
So Jesus instructs the crowd to have a seat in the grass. Then He does what Jesus always does, He sets an example for all of humanity. He prays and gives thanks for what He does not yet have, and for something that hasn’t happened yet.
And after that prayer, all 20,000 mouths ate, and were filled. The problem was solved. But the solution didn’t come in a way that made sense by human standards. It didn’t come in a way that gave the disciples credit. It didn’t come as a result of their efforts, nor did it come through their own resources. This problem was bigger than they were. Yet the solution came, though they had no human way to navigate and fill the giant need they were facing.
Scripture says that after they all ate and were satisfied, that the disciples picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers! Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that Jesus “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”. Jesus not only met the need, but provided more than just what was needed. He left them with more than what they started with.
Mark Batterson said this in his book The Grave Robber, “If you put what you have in your hands into God’s hands, He can make a lot out of a little.”
Imagine the disciples, with just a tiny amount of food, facing such a large, hungry crowd. I can feel their fear, sense their intimidation. Surely, this tiny bit wasn’t going beyond the first two people, let alone the other 19,998. If I was one of the disciples, I would probably be recalling the miracle that Jesus performed at the wedding feast in Cana. Jesus filled 6 stone jars, each holding about 30 gallons, with water before miraculously changing the water to wine (a chemical miracle of epic proportions). I would personally feel more confident in the ability to feed these 5,000 people if I had the 12 baskets full at the beginning of this feeding, instead of at the end.
But that’s not how Jesus works.
Notice that the miracle didn’t occur until the disciples, in faith, began to distribute the food.
Jesus thanked the Father for what was not yet visible and trusted Him to provide what was not yet completed.
And there’s the lesson for you and I.
We are instructed to pray and ask the Father for what we need in Matthew 6:9-13, The Lord’s Prayer. And then a few chapters later, Jesus gives us the example of trust in God’s provision for our needs. Giving thanks ahead of the provision.
Are you facing something bigger than yourself? Is there a mountain of insecurity and doubt in front of you? Are you in a place that you cannot see your way out of?
This is where Jesus can step in and do more than you can ask or imagine. His power is at work within us. Sometimes we forget that, but scripture says it’s true.
On my own efforts, I wrestle and strain. I am often unable to meet the need of the situation I face. My solution is always a “bare minimum” response. I just want to “get through it”.
But the resolution comes when my own resources are exhausted, when my own way simply won’t work, and the credit can only go to Jesus.
What steps can we take to invite Jesus into our impossible situation?
First we have to take what is in our hands, our struggles, hurts, shortcomings and needs, and place them in God’s hands. Then, in full complete trust in His plan and purpose, we thank Him for what He is going to provide, that hasn’t appeared yet. We thank Him for doing the things that haven’t been done yet. For the solutions that He has and will reveal in His time. And when we do that, we can know that He is able. Able to meet our need and provide even more than just the bare minimum. He can do a lot with a little.
Like the disciples, we will be left with more than what we started with. Impossible problem solving math, amazing relationship resolution, and perfectly balanced provision.
Lord, I find myself in what seems to be an impossible situation. I am reminded that You said that nothing was impossible with You. So I invite You into my impossible situation now. Please give me the courage to thank You for the solution that You have yet to provide, because I know You will. Only You can. Amen.