Loaves, Fishes, and Compassion


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

Loaves, Fishes, and Compassion

Like most mothers, I find myself continually reaching out to meet the needs of my children, two-year-old Kira Janae and two-month-old Talia Noel. Watching them grow is 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 most harried moments, I seem to have little time for self-renewal and personal peace.

Recently, feeling consumed in constant care, I sought relief in the scriptures and read in Matthew the account of Christ’s feeding of the five thousand (see accompanying sidebar). As the scriptures unfolded, I saw how they related to mothering, and I was consoled in my moment of need.

As Matthew states, during the Savior’s selfless ministry, the Lord learned of the brutal death of his servant John the Baptist. Jesus left shortly thereafter by ship to “a desert place apart” (Matt. 14:13). But instead of solitude, he met up with a multitude in need of his healing and care.

Moved with compassion towards them, Jesus postponed any moment of renewal he might have desired and responded to their needs. Not only did he heal their sick, but he saw to it that all present were fed. After the multitudes and his Apostles had departed, Jesus took his own leave “up into a mountain apart” (Matt. 14:23).

As I read these verses, I came to feel 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” (Matt. 14:13; see Mark 1:32–37) all day and even into the night. 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 tiredness and the late hour, lovingly directed the setting down of 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 a busy household, I nevertheless shuffled into the kitchen and lovingly prepared dinner for my working husband. I was suddenly filled with a feeling of the Savior’s awareness and gentle approval of my own simple, yet sometimes uneven, expressions of love.

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. Indeed, the Spirit helped me to know that the Savior understands the challenges of my day-to-day activities.

In retrospect, I have wondered what I was grasping for that harried day at home 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 Matthew’s account, I not only reveled in the Savior’s empathy and love for the multitude, and thus for me, but also increased in my own love for him and 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 the Savior.

Feeding of the Five Thousand

“When Jesus heard of [the beheading of John the Baptist], he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.

“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

“And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

“But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

“And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

“He said, Bring them hither to me.

“And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

“And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

“And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

“And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

“And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matt. 14:13–23).

[photo] Photo by Steve Bunderson; posed by models

[illustration] The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, by James J. Tissot

Karen Rose Merkley serves as second counselor in the Relief Society presidency, Sandy Utah East Stake.