It took my husband and me a while to get in a groove with our marriage. Our first year, unfortunately, found us fighting more than loving. Turns out dating someone for over three years really doesn't provide all the information you could ever need to know about them. Two babies of the family, both used to getting their own way (and maybe even being a little bit spoiled), living five hours away from home for the first time, can either be the best thing or the worst thing to happen to them.
Thankfully, we survived it, and are even better for it. We learned a lot during that first year, including how to get along with another sinful person, and how to deal with difficult things.
Defiant children, surprise bills, burned dinners, broken down cars—every day we encounter things that surprise us and leave us with a choice to respond with grace or like we're completely out of it.
I learned early on that stopping to pray in the midst of a fight with my husband helped me regain the proper perspective and gave me the ability to see a side other than my own—something that's always good when you're trying to live life in close proximity to another human being. The combination of prayer, and physically removing myself from the argument to be alone with my thoughts is something I still do today, and it's something we see Jesus model for us in Scripture as He struggled to respond to difficult things with grace.
Matthew chapter 14 gives us a glimpse of what this looked like for Him.
After pouring out His heart to teach the people, Jesus was rejected by his own home town of Nazareth. And just a few short verses later, Jesus learned that his cousin John, the one who leapt for joy at the news of his birth (Luke 1:41), had been put to death.
I don't know about you, friend, but I might've been tempted to feel a bit defeated, and maybe even a little angry after that kind of news. I might even have felt it license to lash out at someone like I'm prone to do after a hard day, or during that time of the month (just admit it ladies...you do it too), or when I feel like no one in my house listens to anything I say (um...like every day).
And maybe Jesus did feel defeated and angry, but unlike my general response to the hard things of life, Scripture tells us that Jesus didn't lash out. He left.
"Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself." Matthew 14:13 ESV
No retaliation (oh, but He could have!), no harsh words (certainly they were deserved, no?), no panic at the great loss to the world John's death was. He simply withdrew to a desolate, or solitary, place to be by Himself for a little while.
The Crowds are Coming
Unfortunately, Jesus didn't get long to regroup. Before He had even gotten ashore a great crowd of people who were sick and needed to touch the hem of His garment were waiting for Him. And just like that, Jesus sprang back into action, having compassion on them, healing them, and even performing one of the greatest miracles ever recorded just so they'd have something to eat.
Can I get some of what He just had? I mean really, as a mama, the ability to "spring into action, have compassion, and perform miracles" right after hearing terrible news should just come with the package, don't you think?
Leave and Regroup
How'd Jesus do it? The secret, I think, was that He left to regroup Himself. In the few minutes it took to get from one side of the water to the other, He did whatever His heart needed to be ready for service again. Probably some prayer and worship. Probably some time spent talking to His Father. Probably some time spent remembering the master plan that included Him laying down His life. Oh, that we could learn to do the same thing.
- When our children tantrum, we can leave and regroup.
- When our spouse wants to fight, we can leave and regroup.
- When friends say things that hurt, we can leave and regroup.
- When we realize that deadline is tomorrow instead of next week, we can leave and regroup.
I'm not talking about leaving a place completely, although some situations might require it. All we really need to do is close the bathroom or bedroom door, lock it, and spend two minutes asking Jesus for help. It might sound something like this:
"Jesus, I need Your help in this moment. I've got nothing to give. I'm overwhelmed with life. But I believe You are good and have a plan for this day. I believe You are able to meet me here in my mess and give me strength to keep going. I believe You can help me respond in grace. Please give me compassion for those I'm serving and help me to honor You."
It's a choice really. A choice to look at our options and decide which path we'll take—retaliate or walk away, lash out in an emotional eruption or take a few minutes to think and pray?
I've erupted one too many times at the difficult things in life to really like it anymore, so I'll try my best to remember this: the Lord promised us a way out before we sin (1 Corinthians 10:13)...we just have to take it.