We are fast approaching the most profoundly Christian time of the year, Holy Week and Easter, during which we will hear again about Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, death on the cross, which redeemed us, washing away our sin and opening up for us life everlasting. What an amazing love! What an amazingly selfless act. Thank you, Lord.
As Christians committed to practicing our faith, living our our lives as Jesus asks us to, we want to care for, to love, and to give to others. But living with a serious illness or ongoing, crushing pain can make this difficult, especially if our health needs are all-consuming of time, energy, and other resources such as money. And, as we all know, doing too much, even if we want to, can run us into the ground and compromise the fragile lives we have in safekeeping, gifts from God.
Yes, we are called to be right there with able-bodied others, ready to help and sacrifice.
But how much is too much? Are we called to make a shambles of our own health, finances, or job situation so we can reach out to others?
Clearly, in Scripture there are examples of people with little (health, money, etc.) who gave of their scant resources. The widow who gave her precious coin, for example. But Jesus also showed us that it is important to take care of your own strength, resilience, health, and, where it is impossible for you to act, to find others who can step in.
Where does He do this?
First, there are several examples in Scripture of where Jesus retreated from his ministry walk and from the crowds that followed him. In Matthew 4:1-12, Jesus went to the desert to pray and fast, not into the city to preach. There, he was tempted, but resisted the temptation. And, after he was refreshed and ready, he began his ministry.
Jesus had been healing and preaching, drawing great numbers of people, when, in Luke 6:12-13, he “departed to the mountain to pray,” leaving behind his disciples. Again, in Matthew 14:23, after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus, “went up on the mountain by himself to pray.”
So important was prayer and renewal to Jesus that he left everyone around him so he could focus on just that.
What am amazing lesson this is for us! We need to be sure not to neglect the things so very important for our strength and ability to walk our Christian walks – we need to take care of ourselves, sometimes, before we are able to have the tools to take care of others.
Another very powerful aspect of what Our Lord shows us about caring for others is expressed when he is near death, hanging on the cross, no doubt in excruciating pain. There, beneath the cross, is his beloved Mother. Mary has been with him throughout his life, especially on his walk to Calvary. And now, she will be left alone.
Jesus could have come down off the cross and cared for her himself, or he could have given his Mother a palace and servants to see that she was taken care of. (In any situation, God can do anything.) But, instead, Jesus turned to “the disciple whom he loved,” and said to Mary, “‘Woman, behold your son.'” He then turned to his disciple and said, “‘Behold your mother.'” In doing this, Jesus shows us another way of providing for others when it is impossible for us to do so ourselves. It, too, is a great act of love.
There are no easy answers as to how much we should give when we might suffer negative consequences ourselves. But that we pray over our decisions and seek God’s wisdom is vital to the integrity of the decisions we make.
God will, of course, take care of us, His beloved children. And besides His grace and strength, He gives us practical tools and good hearts and minds to steady that precarious balance of our abilities and needs and those of others.
Blessings for the day,