Have you read the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst? Each time I read this book with my grandchildren, it reminds of their responses (and my responses – ouch) to everyday occurrences. Alexander’s first response was to declare this is going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Next, he begins to ponder moving to Australia, and, he continues to repeat the words – a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day – throughout this humorous children’s book.
In Matthew 14:13, Jesus has just received some very difficult news and he needed time to be alone. He wanted time to process. John the Baptist had been put to death by order of Herod Antipas. This was one of Jesus’ cousins. Their mothers had a close relationship and, no doubt, had encouraged a close friendship between their 2 sons as they grew up. Jesus respected John for his ministry and his faithful witness concerning him (John 1:15).
Seeking a remote place to be alone, Jesus got into a boat. But the people started following, running ahead to the place where he was headed. Imagine the scene as the boat comes into the shoreline and Jesus sees hundreds, even thousands of people in front of him. Because, in reality, Jesus was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. –Matthew 14:13-14
But in the midst of his difficult day, Jesus looked at the huge crowd and he had compassion on them. There are 2 important parts for the definition of compassion. The first part is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune. But, true compassion goes one step further. The feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another is accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Jesus modeled true, godly compassion. He looked at the crowd and he had great sorrow for their misfortune. Jesus had the power to perform miracles and restore people to good health, to make them whole again. Despite his own grief and sorrow, Jesus continued to live in the moment. Jesus ministered to and healed those who pressed all around him.
Jesus set an example for us in the midst of his pain and sorrow (the death of John the Baptist). He sought to spend some time alone – we need to take our burdens and cares directly to the Lord, as quickly as possible. Then, Jesus looked at the people who had gathered on the shore and his heart was moved with great compassion. We need to live in the present moment and notice the people who cross our path. Is there a way I could bless someone today? Could I offer a kind word, written note, or act of service to encourage a person who is struggling or suffering?
In Alexander’s story, he muddles through his entire day, mumbling and grumbling about his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. He chose to hang on to this attitude for the whole day.
How often do I make that choice and walk through an entire day with a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad outlook? I’d like to practice walking in the path of compassion – see the people and minister to them.