When Your Best Efforts Are Nothing But Fish ‘N Chips

One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

-John 6:8-9

Sometimes that’s about all I have to offer God on really tough days. It’s the modern equivalent of the boy in the Gospels who only had some fish and a few loaves of bread to offer.

I’m sure you see the point immediately: yes, Jesus multiplies our efforts -- however small and measly -- into something that glorifies Him. But it goes deeper than that. This incident with the boy and his loaves of bread is not a picture of us on our “bad days.” It is a picture of us in our true state at all times apart from the Presence of Christ.

It is better to keep that truth constantly before our eyes and never let it stray too far from our awareness -- especially when things are going great and we feel like the most capable human beings ever.

It does something in our hearts when we realize this simple truth: even if I magically wiped away all of my sorrow in a blink of an eye, solved all my problems, healed all of my wounds, restored all of my losses -- even if I did all of that -- I would still be in the same desperate in-need-of-Jesus spiritual state that I am now, but I would probably be less aware of it.

Those good days are much more dangerous than the bad ones, in other words. We can become bloated with a false image of ourselves. As terrible as pain and burn-out can be, we must not overlook the one sparkling diamond in the rough: it tends to cast away all of our self-reliance that grows quietly but profoundly like bacteria in the sun when our lives are perfect.

We are always bringing to God something wholly inadequate. That is the whole point of the Cross. We have never been able to bring enough loaves of bread or fish to the party. He has always been required to multiply what we bring, and He always will. That is His glory and joy, and it is our privilege to even have access to Jesus. Just being able to bring something -- no matter how small or great -- to Jesus on Sundays and any other day is in itself a miracle that was hard won by the tortuous agony of the Crucifixion.

So, next time you feel bankrupt and broken on a Sunday morning (or any morning) as you prepare what seems like the impossible -- fellowshipping with other Christians in the midst of your burn-out and darkness -- remember that you are not the Good Shepherd.

Someone else is.

You don’t have to rely on yourself. Don’t allow your pain, your weariness, your cynicism, to cheat you out of going to Jesus. When we’re down and out, we tend to hide from Him and run away: we skip prayer, we skip worship, we skip devotions, we skip church, we skip giving to others even if it hurts our pocket book, we skip fasting as a spiritual discipline, we skip hanging out with Christians who will challenge us in some way.

Instead, just to run to Him: do all of those things above and more, even if you don’t do any of those things particularly well or effectively. Bring your stale fish and chips. Believe that He can multiply everything into a feast that will soothe the ache and weariness of your heart and even use you to bless others after He has filled you up with His goodness!

And here’s a little prayer to help you get started:

Abba, thank you that in my weakness I am strong because of the perfect work in Christ that moves in my life at all times, even when I’m not “feeling it.”  You help me see the truth: that I am radically dependent on You at all times. In Jesus’ Name, amen.