Many of you have been kind to ask about our family’s situation, following my mother-in-law’s terminal diagnosis earlier this year, and the challenges we have faced as my wife went to Romania to be her primary caregiver. Earlier this summer, Corina spent a month there, and since the end of July, she has been there again as her mother’s health has declined.
In this difficult time, I am preaching through Exodus, and the Lord has been kind to teach me many things through the example of the wilderness wanderings.
The Trial Is Designed
First, the Israelites were there by God’s design. They wandered in the wilderness, but they didn’t wander into the wilderness. Their location was not accidental.
Sometimes people hesitate to speak of trials and tests as being designed by God, but I find great comfort in knowing that God is sovereign in this season. Were I to think that God was surprised by the events of recent months, I would lose hope that his divine goodness, presence, and power is at work in our lives.
The Test Is Humbling
The challenges of this season have been many. Hunger for resolution, for reunion, for restoration—these are the hunger pangs of our distress. It is a hunger that humbles. In Deuteronomy 8:3, when Moses recalled the time in the wilderness, he said:
[The Lord] humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (CSB)
The God who loved Israel let Israel go hungry. And I believe the God who loves my family has led us into a season of deprivation.
This season has certainly humbled me. I have felt inadequate to fill the role of a “single father” for week after week, powerless due to the distance from my wife during this time, and disturbed by the specter of death looming in future shadows.
This season has also humbled me by uncovering some of my sins. When circumstances lead us to complain, we show people what’s inside our hearts. Kent Hughes puts it this way:
Our complaints really are never caused by our outward circumstances. Instead they reveal the inward condition of our hearts.
In trying to juggle all my responsibilities (on one foot, it feels like, without Corina), I’ve gotten angry a few times. One afternoon, my oldest son said, “Dad, you’re in a foul mood.” He was right. And I was humbled. I had to look in the mirror and say, “I’m frustrated, and I’m taking it out on my kids right now because of deeper issues—feeling like I need to be in control, and that things should go my way, and that I am entitled to a life without inconvenience.” Trials unearth our deeper issues and reveal the idols of the heart.
The Test of Abundance
I’ve also learned that tests come in different forms. It is not only the trial that serves as a test. Good times are a test, too. Too many times, we consider a season of deprivation as a test, but not a season of abundance.
When the Israelites were hungry, God told Moses, “I’m going to supply the Israelites with food. And this will be the test.” Hunger wasn’t the big test; the manna was! So, it’s not just what you do in the hard times that shows what’s in your heart; it’s also what you do in the good times.
The harder test, I believe, is living with a daily dependence on God when things are going well. Hunger is a test, but so is fullness. When the difficulties of this present season have passed, will I still be as dependent on God? And will my dependence be expressed daily?
Taking Life a Day at a Time
In the time of trial, when someone asks, “How’s it going?” we often say, “I’m taking it day by day.” I’ve given that answer a lot this year. “I’m taking it one day at a time.”
But now I realize the Christian should have that perspective all the time, not just in the time of trial. Even in times of abundance, we should be taking it one day at a time.
When manna fell from heaven, God told the people to take only what was necessary for each day. The people were not to hoard the food.
In the same way, God wants us to depend on him constantly, not just in the time of trial. “Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray. We need him daily. One day at a time.
No matter if we’re hungry or full, we should ask: How can I bring honor to Jesus today? How can I express my dependence on God today? How can I spread joy today? How can I live faithfully today? How can I find my security and rest in God alone today?
Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry about itself. And so we move forward in faith today. One day at a time. In prayer. In full dependence on a good and sovereign Father.
Dependence on self is slavery. Dependence on God is freedom. So, whether your life right now reflects abundance or deprivation, lean on God one day at a time. And know that you are being tested.