A week ago I participated in a book club discussion on D.L. Mayfield’s The Myth of the American Dream. In the book she discusses the significance of the Israelite people going out to seek manna daily. How it encouraged trust in God and discouraged hoarding. Relying on God as their daily source of food was meant to tune their hearts to trusting Him more deeply rather than relying on their own control over resources.

One of the questions in the discussion guide asks, “Have you ever struggled to survive to the point of wondering how you would eat the next day? How did that shape you?” As I considered this, I realized that I have never been in that situation. Even in my worst times financially, there was always family nearby who would gladly feed me. I’ve never had to worry about how to secure food for myself and my family.

Daily Bread

In the wilderness, God brought the manna every day as the Israelites left their tents to seek His provision. If they took more than their fair share, it rotted and did them no good. There was no benefit to greed because there was no scarcity. Scarcity mindset causes us to hoard and “protect” what we see as ours. It leads to suspicion of others and the idea that someone else’s gain must certainly be my loss. God leveled the playing field in the wilderness, and every person approached him every day in order to have their needs met. How often do we do that?

This week we experienced extremely cold weather and power outages along with much of Texas. Our electricity went off on Monday morning and we went 78 hours without any power and with very little communication from the power company on when to expect relief. We had enough food and we ate every day. But by Wednesday it began to look like we might not have power restored until temperatures got above freezing over the coming weekend. I started to get nervous. We were running low on fresh food and had no way to cook the canned foods in the pantry. The grocery store runs that we experienced during the early days of COVID were fresh on my mind, and I worried that it would be hard to find more groceries if we ran out. We have three kids in our house to feed.

My mind went again to the manna. I knew in my head that we were never in danger of going hungry. However, there was enough uncertainty swirling around us that the fear crept in. I had to let go of my need to control, store up provisions, and provide. I had to ask God to give us our daily bread.

Counting our blessings

There is a benefit to experiencing discomfort and hardship that is often overlooked. Many times when we experience a challenge, we want it to be over quickly so life can return to normal. Then we pontificate on “counting our blessings.” What we mean by blessings in these moments are possessions, comfort, and convenience.

We see the hardship as a lesson in appreciating the “blessings” — or luxuries — that we usually enjoy. But is that the lesson? To reinforce the idea that our comfortable lifestyles are necessary or ideal? Is it to thank God that I don’t usually feel the need to ask Him for daily bread, because I’ve never had a day without it? Or is the lesson that we were never in control at all?

Hard times teach us that we are not in control. Our lives can go off the rails in a split second. They teach us to humble ourselves before a merciful God and ask Him for some manna to keep us going. They teach us to hold our resources loosely because those resources are not our god. Those resources do not save us or keep us safe. They can vanish in an instant.

Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

James 1:9-11 (NKJV)

One day at a time

There are many out there that have such limited resources but a wealth of wisdom from lessons like this. Too often we think that our position of abundance makes us superior to those who lack financial and material resources. It’s a strange attitude for people who follow a Savior who told us it takes a miracle for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24-26). As I reflect on the lessons learned this week, I am also reminded of the words of James who warned of our dangerous propensity to elevate people based on the wrong qualifications (James 2).

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world [to be] rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

James 2:5 (NKJV)

I recognize that my few days with a cold house do not make me an expert on hardship. But it certainly made a deep impression on my heart. By Thursday afternoon, our electricity came back on. The temperature in our house got above the 40s for the first time in days. We cooked hot soup for dinner! On Friday we went out to replenish our groceries and found the shelves largely empty. I can’t say if the emptiness was due to supply chain disruptions from icy roads, or if people are hoarding groceries again for fear of running out. But the lesson of the manna was still with me. Give us this day our daily bread. Take what you need, not out of fear of scarcity. Take no thought for tomorrow.

I have no doubt there will be times that I forget this lesson. But for now, instead of only thanking God for the resources we enjoy again, I am also thanking Him for the lessons that come from doing without them.