As COVID-19 has run rampant in our country for the past several weeks, the toll and disruption in people’s lives are beyond comprehension. Perhaps like me, you’ve had to work through the stages of grief and fight to stay in the peace of God. Our trust in God is being immensely challenged and tested by our current predicament.
In Exodus 16, the Israelites faced similar testing of their trust in God when thrust into a season of scarcity they were ill-prepared to face.
They had just left an oasis of rest and comfort in Elim where they had all they needed and were comfortable. By the leading of God, they headed to the wilderness where deprivation and hardship were a newfound and abrupt reality. It scared them enough to want to go back to bondage in Egypt rather than face the uncertainty. Their security was being stripped away and their trust challenged.
It’s kind of like this… one day you have a grocery store filled with everything you need and are accustomed to getting and the very next day the shelves are barren!
You go from a confidence that you can get what you want when you want it, to taking inventory of your supplies with new misgivings if you will have enough to weather the storm.
The Israelite's stockpile was in danger of running out and the certainty that they had to be sustained in the wilderness long-term, without the resources or ability to pull that off, was an ever-present reality!
It was just a few weeks ago, which feels like an eternity now, my husband, who was out of town, encouraged me to go to the store and get more food. I headed to the store mid-day anticipating I could run in and quickly grab a few needed things like always. That was not my experience!
I was stunned by the sea of people, the mounds of groceries piled into carts, the empty shelves, and the hour-long wait times to check out. I've lived through storms but nothing prepared me for this. No one was prepared for this.
When storms hit they are fast and hard - quick and intense - but then it is over and we begin to rebuild. This is something different altogether. It has collectively taken our breath away with no certainty of when we can begin to rebuild.
As I stood there in the check-out line, I fought to hold back tears. It broke my heart to see all the fear, and not just in others, but in me as well. Peace was not ruling my soul at that moment, panic was. My eyes were on the future and not the Lord. I have a newfound empathy for the Israelites.
Scarcity affects the way that we think and feel. Restriction of things we deem desirable leads us to focus on what we do not have. It orients the mind towards unfulfilled hopes and expectations. This makes room for dissatisfaction with our plight that pushes its way in like a virus. Lack of peace and disgruntlement go hand in glove.
Based on what is written in the passage, it seems that starvation was more of an anticipation than an experience for the Israelites. They didn’t live through weeks of famine, nor did they see their families die of starvation, or even have to eat all the livestock meandering around.
In other words, they had no evidence of what they feared, just anticipation that they would not survive.
Scarcity makes us myopic with a bias towards the here and now. We overvalue what is before us and lose sight of the future and the One who holds it!
That near-sightedness makes it difficult to trust that God has a plan and it is better than what we can see or imagine. Rather than anticipating the Lord will come through for us, which He has done countless times, we anticipate the worst! The enemy of our soul spews doubts in an attempt to discredit our loving God.
Doubt will take us on a roller coaster ride of emotion and work against our willingness to accept what God has allowed and trust Him to see us through it.
If we don't trust, we don't rest and we don't obey.
Fear quickly gave way to a new issue, complaining. The Israelites began filing their grievances with Moses. Complaining was their go-to coping mechanism and a declaration of their collective unhappiness. They were disappointed with their new norm and poor Moses got an earful!
I am guilty, more times than I care to admit, of opening my mouth and voicing my complaint rather than going to God in prayer... much less with thanksgiving.
The Israelites were singing the praises of God not but one chapter before and went from crooning to complaining overnight! It is easy to sing the praises of the Lord and give thanks in the good times, but far more difficult to do so in the tough times.
The thing about complaining is it reveals what we believe about God. We are not intending to question His good and kind character, but, in essence, that is what we are doing.
So what can we glean from the Israelite's example of what not to do in a crisis?
Philippians 4:6-7 provides us the antidote to both fear and complaint. It is a better response...
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
No doubt, we are living in frightening times right now. Don’t ignore or sugarcoat your fear and dissatisfaction. Be honest with the God of all comfort and pour out your concerns to Him, He promises peace.
Jesus assures us in Matthew 6:25-34 that we are precious to God and we need not fear lack of provision for our basic needs. He encourages us to live in the present moment as putting our eyes on the concerns of tomorrow leads to fear.
Bread doesn't normally rain from Heaven. God supernaturally provided for the Israelites and He can meet your need in ways you never knew existed.
While you are bringing your troubles to the Lord, bring thanksgiving with you. You have an open invitation to boldly enter His throne room with confidence that you will find grace to help in this critical time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Trust enables us to rest and receive. Gratitude enables us to open our hearts and let His peace that passes logical understanding fill it to the brim.
"Rejoice always." Joy comes when we have confidence that God is in control!
It is joy in the Lord. He is a loving God who cares deeply about what we are going through and He is with us!
Christians, we have a unique opportunity in these troubling times to bring glory to God. With such collective fear, lack of peace, and dissatisfaction permeating our globe, we can shine as lights in a dark world!
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