It’s hard to live one day at a time.
Lately I’ve been feeling that and seeing it in the lives of people I care about. The steady drain of financial suspense. The cold prospect of disease creeping into the life of a friend. The heart-wrenching pain of sudden bad news in lives of friends. And while today seems to have worked out—barely—who knows what will happen tomorrow? That’s what living on manna must have been like (Exodus 16).
It’s not that manna’s so bad, actually. It’s actually amazing if you really think about it. Fed directly by God--how cool is that? Every day there’s a brand new helping of what you need, carefully dished out in the perfect portions designed for you.
It’s not the manna really. Manna is fine, even if it lacks the variety. And it’s not even the “coming from heaven” part of it. Even after all these years of Bedouin backpacking the daily reminder of His presence is still reassuring.
The problem with manna is that it’s all you get. It’s not like you can scare up some nice roasted quail, and you can hardly remember the exotic fruits and vegetables from Egypt. And so when you’re forced to have the same thing day after day after day…well, you begin to discover that you really hunger for more than bread alone.
Just think how nice it would be to have a choice, after all. Choosing another round of manna would be so much more empowering than simply being given it. “What do you feel like for dinner tonight, dear?—Oh…how about some manna this evening?” It’s nice to have some variety on the menu.
But the real problem with manna is that there’s no back-up supplier. It only comes from Him. And while He’s never failed to deliver, He’s also made a point of never giving one extra flake to store away. No matter how careful you might be, it’s absolutely utterly impossible to get any kind of margin for tomorrow. That's got to raise at least a few questions for you. There’s simply no way to get any kind of real security. And so you live from one morning’s manna-gathering to the next, with the nagging realization that if this crazy bread from heaven even thinned out you’d face certain disaster. It’s humbling to feel so dependent. Sometimes manna tastes like eating crow.
And so you hunger, even when your stomach’s stuffed. You hunger in advance for tomorrow because you never know how tomorrow will turn out. You hunger for some of the fruit from the Tree in Eden, back when God first started all these crazy limits on our diet. Sometimes it almost seems like too much.
And yet, by His great mercy, we are not consumed. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. (Lam. 3:23)
Sometimes, sitting back after a big meal of--you guessed it—manna, you begin to get a strange sense that maybe it’s supposed to be like this. Your days uncluttered by the hubris that comes from margin, your plans completely aligned with the giver of manna, the Giver of All Good Things. You realize you have exactly what He wants you to have, no more and no less. Relying not simply on the daily spread of that crazy desert bread, but relying even more on the character of the One who gives that manna. He is good, you’ve discovered.No one would ever choose to live on manna. Maybe that’s why God doesn’t give us the choice. He gives what we hunger for even while depriving us of what we want.