How to Handle Difficult News

Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened. As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone” (Matt. 14:13, NLT).

Do you see something striking about these two verses? Jesus apparently didn’t know that His cousin had been executed until human messengers brought Him this information. This is in contrast to many other Scriptures where He knew things supernaturally, like people’s thoughts or what was about to happen. In those instances, Holy Spirit would give Him divine “intel.”

In this case, however, it looks like Holy Spirit did not do so. He received the disturbing news the same way any of us receive bad news, by natural means. We can see the immediate impact this had on Jesus’ emotions, in that it obviously stirred in Him a profound need to be alone and process. At once, He sought out a remote place for this purpose.

There’s a reason that the Father allowed Him to receive the news this way, rather than by prophetic revelation. One of God’s main goals for Jesus’ earthly life was to show us how to live out our own days here. Through this window into Jesus’ inspiring example, we learn how to handle difficult news. Our Savior knows exactly how it feels to be the recipient of deeply troubling information. He also knows exactly what to do when this happens. We can follow in His steps.  

His go-to impulse was to get alone and pray. Although He was not able to do so straightaway because of the crowd that followed Him, He still adamantly made it happen. Since He couldn’t get alone time with Daddy in the daytime, He did it at night. After ministering to the crowd for hours, He sent the disciples ahead and stayed behind. He then proceeded to pray through the night (vv. 23-25).

How hungry He must have been for the Father’s presence, to forego sleep after such a taxing day! Here is His example for us. Let’s follow it. Let’s imitate Him. No matter what seems to be presenting itself as an obstacle to getting alone with God, let’s do whatever it takes to aggressively carve out that time. No matter what.

Here’s the second thing we can glean from watching Jesus in action, as we immerse ourselves in this story. It comes from the next verse: “Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (v. 14). Even in His own moment of emotional need, Jesus prioritized others’ needs. I can imagine the Father whispering to His heart, “Don’t worry, Son. We’ll get Our time together tonight. Go ahead and minister to these precious ones.”

Can you imagine how long it took to attend to a crowd of thousands with healing? He spent so much time pouring the love of the Father into these hungry ones that daytime faded into twilight. Yet still, on top of it all, His heart continued to stir with compassion. He wanted to give them all dinner too. And, “out of nothing,” He did. Two fish and five loaves became enough to feed them all, with abundant leftovers even.

Daddy also intends this part of the story as our model to emulate. When you and I are in a place of emotional need, imitating Jesus will add strength to our lives. Allowing Him to pour through us to those in need around us – even in the face of our own need to get alone – is essential. As we make ourselves available to Him, He will first share His deep compassion for them with us. From there, He will nourish them “out of nothing.” You may feel like you have very little resource available, whether financially or emotionally. Give Him what you have. He will multiply it. He will do the miracle. You just make yourself available.

This story is beautifully relevant to the times we are living through right now. When disturbing news comes in, let’s follow His living example. Let’s cut out whatever we have to cut out, to get alone with Him for unhurried fellowship and strengthening. And let’s offer ourselves as His vessels of compassion to the ones He brings into our lives, even at cost to ourselves. When we do so, with the little we have to offer, He will perform wonders.

Let’s walk in His steps today.


Can you picture what the conversation between Jesus and John’s disciples must have been like when they brought Him the tragic news? What do you think His response must have been like in that moment? Can you imagine His face?

8 thoughts on “How to Handle Difficult News

  1. Wonderfully said Jenn, thank you. Jesus is the perfect model for us to emulate, as you have said. I believe He experienced the hearing of John’s death in this way to also confirm His complete humanity to all. I’ll never understand how He could be fully/fully man at the same time, but I trust it to be true without reservation. He is/was the only perfect sacrifice for our sins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you too, Chuck! I very much agree with you. God wanted us to know that His particpation in the human experience was full and complete. I really appreciate you bringing out that point. And yes, how amazing it is that He could be fully God and fully man at the same time!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As others have already commented, these verses and your words unpacking them were ones I needed to hear. I have not been making time to be alone with God. I’ve been trying to fit it in while doing something else. Inviting God into every part of my life is great, but there must always be time to be alone with our creator, so I can clearly hear what He is saying and what Holy Spirit is ministering to me.

    I feel like I do the other part well, setting aside my own pain to care for others, but I’ve been using the “I’ll have a conversation later” or “Tomorrow I’ll set aside time to pray” lines, instead of finding a quiet place and meditating.

    Thank you for this. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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