Then, there is a second issue: "How would Jesus respond to me if I were to bring him my situation... my messes... my problems... my incurable disease?" I've been asked that question directly. I've had people hint around at it until I finally asked them if they were afraid to ask it. I've even caught myself wondering about it, too.
Just like the people in Jesus' day, we wrestle with the "Big Four" fears.* We can't control nature and we see its destructive power as it rips apart homes and lives. We worry — both about our loved ones and sometimes about ourselves — getting hurt by others who are doing evil things. We worry about disease and the incurable and terminal illnesses that afflict our friends, family, and ourselves. We are wounded by death: the unexpected death of a friend or loved one and the destructive power death has in the lives of families as they try to cope with its finality and separation.
In any of these moments, we need Jesus to be real. We need our Lord to be near as we face our fears. We want to know that what happens to us matters to him. Most of all, we want to know that the Lord will deal with our needs personally and specifically.
So we are going to look at four episodes in Jesus' earthly ministry again, this time to deal with our two pressing issues that we face in the middle of life's struggles:
- Jesus and his apostles in a furious storm on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:22-25).
- Jesus casting out a multitude of demons destroying a man's life (Luke 8:26-39).
- Jesus curing a woman suffering from uncontrollable bleeding (Luke 8:43-48).
- Jesus raising a little girl from the dead (Luke 8:40-56).
Often times we picture Jesus as the wonder working man dispensing miracles one right after another with people in line to get their dose of miracle. Then, Jesus moves on and the next person steps up — the people are nameless and faceless, one after another, all getting a dose of the miracle worker's magic and then being rushed away so the next person can get their dose.
Yet that is not the way Jesus ministered. He was careful to not let his ministry become a traveling miracle man show. He withdrew to teach his disciples. He withdrew to have time alone with God. He left to move on to other places to focus on his work of proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. Most of all, Jesus dealt with people based on their deepest needs, restoring them to community and sharing God's love with them personally and specifically.
Notice in these four important events how our Lord dealt with people personally and specifically, based on their needs.
- With the disciples' terror in the storm, Jesus calms the storm in a way only God Almighty could calm a storm, and then challenges his disciples to deeper faith (Luke 8:24-25).
- With Battalion, the man controlled by a legion of demons, Jesus connects with the man personally by asking his name (Luke 8:30), includes the man in his group of disciples after having restored the man to full health (Luke 8:35), and then sends the man on a mission to his people to tell them how much the Lord had done for him (Luke 8:39) — the exact opposite instruction Jesus gives after most of his miracles.
- With the woman with an incurable flow of blood, Jesus' power heals her because of her faith, but Jesus will not allow her to leave unnoticed and will not allow her faith to go un-praised and her healing un-affirmed (Luke 8:47-48).
- With the death of Jairus' daughter, Jesus puts everyone out of the room except the little girl's parents along with Peter, John, and James (Luke 8:51-52) so these parents could have this amazingly tender moment of grace as the Lord takes their daughter by the hand raising her from the dead and then Jesus asks them to get their girl something to eat (Luke 8:54-55).
Each of these miracles is as specific and personal as they all are amazing. Each person received what she or he needed in the moment. Each was handled with care, recognizing the wounds, needs, and issues of faith that were unique to each person and each situation. Faith is praised, affirmed, or challenged uniquely and specifically. The presenting needs — storm, demons, illness, death — are addressed, but so also are the underlying needs — faith in Jesus' identity, restoration to family, restoration to community, physical hunger.
So what? What difference does any of this make in our own personally struggles?
We began with our two pressing realities:
- I need Jesus to be present with me in my struggles.
- I wonder how he would respond to me and help me in my struggles.
Here's where we are blessed even more than the folks who saw Jesus a time or two in his earthly ministry.
- We have four gospels full of Jesus' interactions with real people from a wide variety of backgrounds, with diverse needs, and many uniquely specific life circumstances. How he dealt with them is how he would deal — and how he deals — with us.
- We have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the personal presence of God given to us by Jesus at our conversion (Acts 2:38; Titus 3:3-7) who lives inside us and the family of God filled by the Holy Spirit to minister to us as we face our struggles. And as the apostle Paul reminds us,
Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else? (Romans 8:32 NLT).
So here's the take away for me in all of this, and I hope it is a blessing for you, too!
- Jesus knows and cares about my struggles — he knows them specifically and he knows how they impact me personally.
- Jesus is as close to us as the breath we breathe through Heaven's Breath, the Holy Spirit — so I am never alone and never forsaken.
- Jesus will minister to me in my struggles to help with both the presenting need and the deepest need and will work for my eternal, best good.
How do I know that? How can I be sure?
I've seen him and felt him do it in me before!
I've seen him do it to many folks in the gospels and I believe that Jesus is not only raised form the dead, but is my present Lord who sees, hears, cares, and comes down to help. The Bible tells me this is so!
* The "Big Four" primal fears:
- Deep: uncontrollable nature (Luke 8:22-25).
- Demonic: unmanageable evil (Luke 8:26-39).
- Disease: incurable illness (Luke 8:43-48).
- Death: undeniable mortality (Luke 8:40-56).
See the other articles in this series: