Where is God in times like these—personal, national, or global challenges? I trusted Him yesterday, but where is He now that I’ve lost my job or health or <fill in the blank>??
He is here with us, as He always is, if only we have eyes to see.
A few weeks ago, the pastor at my church (Pastor Brady Boyd, New Life Church) started a series called “Faith in the Wilderness”, which he had planned a few months ago. Before the coronavirus changed life as we know it, at least for now, and maybe forever. I don’t believe in coincidences in God’s Kingdom. He planted the seed for the sermon series in Brady’s heart since He knew so many of us would need messages about not being afraid and trusting God no matter what is happening around us.
Is there anyone who thinks God is surprised by COVID-19?
So this sermon series pulls stories from Exodus, from times when the people of Israel thought God had abandoned them and left them to die. Pharaoh realized his free slave laborers were packing all their earthly belongings on their camels and donkeys, never to return, so he changed his mind about letting them leave and sent his soldiers to chase them. When the most powerful army in the world had the Israelites backed up against the Red Sea, was God surprised? No, He had a plan. One that nobody could have predicted, that no human mind could have conceived: simply (ha!) part the Red Sea so His chosen people could walk through on dry ground, then close it up again when Egypt’s warriors tried to pass through.
But then how quickly they (and we) forget. Not long after this, the children of Israel grumbled against God to Moses—how could God have saved them from the Egyptians, only to let His chosen people starve to death in the wilderness? But God was also not caught off guard by this turn of events. This time His unconventional plan was to provide manna—food that covered the ground every morning (except the sabbath) like dew from the sky. Who would have thought of that?
He took time out of His busy schedule running the universe to care for His beloved people. To meet their physical needs in a tangible way. Every day, day after day.
But here’s the thing about the parted Red Sea: it took tremendous faith for the people of Israel to walk between the two huge walls of water. I can imagine the conversation between Moses and his brother, Aaron—“What do we do now?” “I think we’re supposed to walk through there.” “What, are you nuts? How long do you think it will stay like that? You go first!” But they did it.
They trusted God.
Same story with the manna. God provided it, but the Israelites had to gather it. Every day, and only enough for one day, except for the sixth day, which was the only day they were allowed or able to collect enough for two days, so they could take the sabbath off. On any other day, if they tried to gather more than they needed for just one day (and some people did), it would become rotten and filled with worms. (And I can picture a similar conversation between Moses and Aaron—“What is it?” (which is what “manna” means!). “I don’t know, but I think we’re supposed to eat it.” “Eat it?? We don’t even know what it is! You try it first!”) So they ate. In the wilderness, with no restaurants in sight. With only God as their Provider. “Only” God—what a ridiculous underestimation of the capabilities of He who created the universe!
But here’s where trust in God is like manna falling from heaven. When we first accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we may have thought of that as trusting God with where we will spend eternity. And certainly, that’s a glorious promise that we receive upon entering His family. But there’s a daily element to trusting God that we don’t discover until sometime later in our journey with Him. It’s not enough to have that one grand gesture of trust when we first became believers. If that’s all we do, then we miss out on the glorious treasures God packs into each and every day for us. But in order to live into the richness and warmth of the Eternal Life that God makes available to us NOW (and not just when we die), we have to gather up the trust He provides to us DAILY.
I may have trusted Him yesterday, when everything was going well, but that was easy. And that was yesterday. Do I trust Him today, when my back is against the Red Sea or when I have no food in the wilderness or when the world seems to be falling apart because of a pandemic? He gives us the ability to trust Him even in these situations, to feel the joy that the Apostle Paul felt even when he was in a miserable prison. But we have to gather it up. Will we do that? And, like manna, we can only gather up enough for one day.
Tomorrow, we have to go back out and gather enough for tomorrow. But thankfully, we have a God who is kind and generous enough, and who cares enough about our daily needs, to provide enough to get us through another day. For that, among other countless blessings, I am eternally grateful.
How about you? Will you gather up the trust God has given you for today?