Scripture Reading: Exodus 15:22-27, Exodus 16:1-36, Exodus 17:1-16, John 6:41-51, 1 Corinthians 10:1-5
I struggle with the idea of provision. The cultural ideal tells me that if I want something done right, I should do it myself. And the American dream assures me that I can pull myself up by my own bootstraps, and take care of my business on my own. We can find this subtext of self-reliance in most of our films and stories. When the heroine wavers on the brink of a difficult challenge or important decision, where does she find the strength to go on? She finds it within herself, of course. This is how the constant cultural inundation with the message of self-reliance sneaks into our brains.
So when I’m confronted with real world dilemmas, like, “Honey, how are we going to pay the mortgage this month?” and “How can we possibly help and heal our trauma-scarred adopted son?” My first instinct is to smile through my gritted teeth and TRY HARDER. We can make more money if we just hustle more, and we can help our kid if we just find the right program. I want to depend on myself and find the strength within to make our life great. The problem is, strength doesn’t come from within.
Scripture tells us that strength comes from outside of ourselves; our strength comes from the Lord. In the wilderness, the Israelites couldn’t provide for themselves. He provided for them, raining down bread from heaven (Exodus 16:4). And in the New Testament, God sent Jesus to us, who said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51). He is our provision for our earthly and spiritual needs.
Obviously, we can’t swing to the extreme of giving up all effort and work. Work is good. God called us to use our hands to create (I Chronicles 22:15-16; Genesis 1:27; Ephesians 2:10). There is a reason hard exertion of effort is satisfying: it is good. “There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand” (Ecclesiastes 2:24, HCSB). But our first line of provision is never our own effort, and it’s always God’s good gifts. The air we breathe, the sunsets we take in with awe, our very bodies—these are all good provisions from Him.
While we are so often tempted to complain, wondering where our daily bread will come from, God is already leading us to a land with springs of water. Like the Israelites, we grow frustrated with God, wondering, Why are you taking me into this wilderness? (Exodus 17:1-7). But He has called us to trust Him, that no matter the wilderness we may wander, He will provide enough for us each and every day.
Rest in His provision, diligently gather the bread He offers, and know that He is the Lord.