A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a co-worker about fundraising, and she described to me seasons of manna and how we have to depend on the Lord to provide every day. She was explaining what the Israelites were going through in Exodus chapter 16. I thought what she said was profound and remembered this story in the Bible, but wanted to reread it for myself. As I read it, I was shocked at how much it not only related to the nonprofit fundraising world but also to this year and what I have been experiencing.
For the past couple of years, I have struggled deeply with depression and anxiety. It has been trivial and exhausting, not having the energy to live and function as a normal human, but at the same time having to perform as one is crippling. There have been points where it has been tough to see the light and I've wondered if this will ever end. Throughout this year as a Fellow, it seems as though the things I have struggled with have been revealed even more to me. We do many self-assessments and learn more about who we are and I have had to face some of my deepest struggles head-on. At times it’s felt like a live nerve being exposed to the open world. As I was reading in Exodus 16, I was amazed at how much I related to the Israelite community.
If you look at the 16th chapter, you can see in verse 3 that the people complain and wish the Lord would have left them in Egypt to die, where they were eating pots of meat and had all the food they wanted. I found this almost comical because two chapters prior the Lord was parting the red sea. This, in a sense, is me. I will often look back on a season of my life that probably wasn't as glamorous as it seemed and hope for it again. I will tell the Lord I wish I were there, rather than being in this Fellow's year. But just like the Israelites, I forget about the miracles God is doing in my life. We are forgetful people.
As I kept reading in Exodus 16, I was amazed that the Lord, even despite their grumbling, gave them food to sustain and fill them.
"Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day, they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." (v.4-5)
This is proof that the Lord hears our cries. He hears our hurts and needs, and he responds to them. What astounded me as I kept reading was the part when the Lord gave them food for that day, and that day alone. He gave them enough to fill them up and sustain them. Looking at verses 16- 20 below, one can see that the Lord gives us what we need to get through the day. He, this year, has given me a host family to support me, a community of believers to cheer me on and pray for me, a work environment that is healing and nourishing, and a church that is there whenever I need them. He doesn't give us any more or any less. It is interesting though that when the Israelites tried to store more food for the next day, it would spoil. I feel like I do this in my own life. I will cling to the blessings the Lord has given me, make them the ultimate things, and they turn out to spoil like the manna. I take good things, make them ultimate, and come up empty. For me, especially in college, I took the gifts and blessings God had given me to do well in school, and made it the ultimate thing that drove me at the cost of friendships, sleep, and time with the Lord. This is a small example. We can take the jobs we get, the spouse we have, the kids we have, the house we live in, the wardrobe that sits in our closet, and make them the “thing”. It will spoil. If we don’t keep watch it will fill with maggots because these things were never meant to fill us. They were never meant to heal our depression or brokenness; never meant to get us to the next day.
"16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer[a] for each person you have in your tent.'"17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.19 Then Moses said to them, "No one is to keep any of it until morning."20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them."
As we know, the bread of life that sustains us is Jesus. He tells us this in the gospels. In this season of hardship, I have had to lean on him to fill me. I have had to lean on the blessings he is pouring down from heaven to sustain me. There are some days where I cannot function, but the Lord reminds me and whispers to me that he is here for me. That he will never forsake me. He is my abundance. Nothing in this world that I can store up will sustain me the way he does. I, like the Israelites, store up the things of this world to try to make me full, but it fails me. Only Jesus can fill me up, make me whole.
I am unsure why God has not taken this struggle away from me. I know that there will be a day where he does, but for now he wants me to see that he is the only thing that will fulfill me. No job, spouse, kids, material things, degrees in school, friends, body size, and so much more.
Those things will fail me.
As I look forward to what is to come, I am very thankful that the Lord had the Fellows program as a part of my life story. He has challenged me in ways I never thought, and I have grown into a better version of myself over the past six months. I am learning, just as the Israelites had to, that God will continue throughout my life to give me what I need for that day. He will provide me with no more or no less, just what I need. He will bring me through the desert, feed me, and give me something to drink. My prayer is that we as a people will grow into relying on him and his abundance. There is simply nothing sweeter. I think we also have to remember that what we think we need, might not be what God knows we need. I often find myself in a trap thinking God's manna being poured down on my life has to look exactly the way I want it to. We have to press into the fact that sometimes what we need isn't for our depression and anxiety to be taken away, although that would be nice, but learning to rely on Jesus and find joy in the midst of suffering. The food he rained down from heaven might not have been the meat that they wanted, but it was what sustained them.
I know this season of manna will not last forever. Jesus tells us that. He has come to sustain us not for a day, but for forever. He is the true bread. The Lord and giver of life.