Loaves, Fishes, and Compassion

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“Loaves, Fishes, and Compassion,” Liahona, Feb. 1999, 32

Loaves, Fishes, and Compassion

After a busy day, I needed reassurance from someone who could understand my challenges. Through the scriptures, I found the Savior’s help.

Like most mothers, I find myself continually stretching to meet the needs of my children. Watching them grow is an immeasurable joy, yet their need for love, affection, play, stories, teaching, bathing, feeding, and consoling is as constant as the ticking of the clock. In my busiest moments, I seem to have little time for self-renewal and personal peace.

Recently, while feeling consumed by constant demands, I sought relief in reading the New Testament account of Christ’s feeding of the 5,000. As the story unfolded, I saw how these scriptures related to mothering, and I was consoled in my moment of need.

At one point during His selfless ministry, the Lord learned of the brutal death of His servant John the Baptist. Jesus traveled shortly thereafter to “a desert place apart” (Matt. 14:13). But instead of finding solitude, He was met by a multitude seeking His healing and care.

Moved with compassion, Jesus postponed His moment of renewal and responded to their needs. Not only did He heal the sick, but He made sure all present were fed. Then after the multitude and His Apostles had departed, Jesus took His own leave “up into a mountain apart” (Matt. 14:23).

As I read these verses, I felt by the Spirit how much the Savior understands my trying moments. He knows the feeling of being surrounded by people in need, of having people follow Him from “out of the cities” all day and even into the night (Matt. 14:13; see also Mark 1:32–37). He experienced feeling physically spent during His earthly ministry. Surely, then, the Lord empathizes with my demanding role as a mother and is keenly aware of how my children’s outstretched arms and tearful eyes often delay my own restful intermissions.

As I basked in the impact of these verses, I pondered how Jesus, disregarding weariness and the late hour, lovingly provided a meal for His followers, putting their need for refreshment above His own. I found myself recalling times when, exhausted from caring for sick children and keeping up with a busy household, I nevertheless shuffled into the kitchen and lovingly prepared dinner for my husband. I was suddenly filled with the feeling that the Savior knew of my simple yet sometimes uneven expressions of love, and He approved of my efforts.

And then it occurred to me that Jesus was likely the last to leave the desert place. I thought to myself, He even knows what it feels like to be the last one out of the kitchen!

In retrospect, I have wondered what I was grasping for that busy day when I collapsed on the couch with my scriptures. I didn’t need physical help as much as I needed to know that the Savior understands my challenges. In poring over the scriptures, I not only reveled in the Savior’s empathy and love for the multitude, and thus for me, but I also increased my own love for Him and my empathy for His sacrifices in serving others.

My intermission had finally come, as it did for Christ when He “went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matt. 14:23). I was renewed both in my work as a mother and in my desire to become more like my Savior.

Photograph by Steve Bunderson, posed by models

Feeding the Five Thousand, by Hall, used with permission of the Providence Lithograph Company