St Luke 9: 37 – 43 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’ While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
Reflection I have always wondered what the disciples were up to during this incident. Clearly they had been trying to put into practice what they had seen Jesus do as they observed his healing and teaching ministry, but to no avail. It was clearly a painful experience for the father of this child. He had come to the disciples in desperation and they appeared to have let him down. It was only when Jesus turned up that things changed and the miracle occurred.
I feel desperately sorry for the disciples. Everything probably felt so helpless for them and they couldn’t offer the care that was needed.
But I think that is because they read the situation wrongly. The father came to the disciples because he had nowhere else to turn and however inadequate the disciples felt and acted they still were able to offer something to the father. I think they were at least trying! I wonder if it wasn’t so much the care that they were giving as to how they were giving it and it is only later when Jesus explains to them why they failed that we realise they were trying to offer care in their own strength rather than God’s.
Sometimes like the disciples we are faced with challenging situations where the position seems hopeless. People that turn to us might have similar desperate situations such as the terminal illness of a loved one, or an impossible mountain of debt to manage, or another situation in their lives that they simply cannot manage on their own. In such moments it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to help them in our own strength and thinking that we know what is best for them. But in such moments we need to be reminded to stop, to pause and breathe and then offer the situation into God’s hands through prayer, safe in the knowledge that if we put our faith and trust in God, God will minister to us and the person we are supporting in ways we cannot even begin to imagine.
Prayer Gracious God, thank you that in the midst of the complexity of life, You offer love, care and comfort to us. Remind us in difficult situations to place things into your hands through prayer. Help us to lean on you for our strength, rather than relying on our own fallibility and weakness. Thank you that through Jesus, hopeless situations become life giving and life affirming. In Jesus’ name we pray these things. Amen.
The Rev’d Andrew Mann-Ray is Minster, Baxter, Kidderminster & Worcester URCs and Area Minister for Herefordshire and Worcestershire.