One of my favorite Bible stories is God’s provision of bread in the wilderness. The Israelites grumbled because they had no food, so God gave them manna from heaven. The flaky food would appear on the ground in the morning. They could gather as much as they liked, but it didn’t do any good to store it up. With the exception of the Sabbath eve when they were allowed to gather the next day’s portion, if they kept manna overnight it became full of worms with a terrible smell. I’m sure they didn’t make that mistake more than a couple of times.
It may have taken a while for the children of Israel to trust that the manna would be there the next morning. They had to adjust to going to bed with full stomachs but empty cupboards. You might have thought that once they learned the lesson, God would have started feeding them some other way, but Exodus 16:35 says: “The people of Israel ate the manna 40 years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.”
One Day at a Time
It’s a great feeling when you can stock up on food and paper products at a wholesale store and know you won’t have to go back for months. But God doesn’t allow us to stock up on his grace. He gives it to us one day at a time, just as he gave his people manna. And just as they waited for daily bread for 40 years, we wait on daily grace for a lifetime.
You see, once you start walking in daily dependence on God, you have to keep walking in it. God’s desire is to be in fellowship with us, and one way he draws us into that fellowship is by meeting our needs one day at a time. He doesn’t just give us what we need; he wants to give us himself. He gives us himself through his Word. The trials that make us crave the life-giving sustenance of the daily nourishment of Scripture are like the hunger pains that drive us to the daily food our bodies need to survive.
Your needs for today may not be all that daunting, but the thought of what it will take to persevere for a lifetime can be overwhelming. Maybe singleness isn’t so bad today, but can you bear it for the rest of your life? Maybe you have peace in the face of your cancer diagnosis, but where will you get the strength to cope with seemingly endless cycles of chemotherapy?
If you feel like you don’t have enough fortitude for the future, that’s because God doesn’t give grace in a lifetime supply. He provides it one day at a time. If you doubt God has given you the capacity to endure your trial for a lifetime, you can rest assured he hasn’t. But he has given you exactly what you need to flourish today.
Jesus sought daily strength from his Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:15–16), expecting him to provide what he needed day by day (Luke 11:3). God promises us the same timely help in Christ:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:15–16)
God has promised to supply what we need, when we need it. He hasn’t equipped us for hypotheticals. As C. S. Lewis wrote in a letter, “It is seldom the present and the actual that is intolerable. Remember one is given the strength to bear what happens, but not the 101 different things that might happen.”
Three Decades From Now
Whatever your need is, God can meet it day by day. If you’re walking through infertility, my question for you is, can you live for the next 24 hours without a child? Can you trust God to get you through today? If the answer is yes, then you have what it takes to survive for the long haul. You just need to ask yourself the same question tomorrow.
You may have a disabled child. While caring for him today isn’t easy, you have what you need to make it through the day. Still, the thought of what it will be like to care for him for the next 30 years may terrify you. Take heart at the thought that 30 years from now, you will be walking with the same loving Father, and he will still be giving you exactly what you need for each day.
The Israelites didn’t have enough manna to last them for 40 years. They had only enough for that day. But they had a relationship with the almighty, all-providing God, and they trusted him to provide just what they needed, one day at a time.
Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Betsy Childs Howard’s new book, Seasons of Waiting: Walking By Faith When Dreams Are Delayed (Crossway, 2016) [additional excerpt].