Monday, April 30, 2018

Manna for each day

  

What will the anatomy scan reveal? Will this baby be healthy? What if I experience preterm labor again? What if I miss the warning signs--again? What if the worst happens?

I was 17 weeks pregnant with Andrew when the worries began to swirl through my mind, threatening to squelch the hope that continued to rise up with each encouraging OB visit, each reassuring test result and each passing week. As I began to feel our little boy’s first tiny moments, I thought about the five babies we had lost before him and battled the fear that I would have to say goodbye to him too.

As I battled against these fears, my dear friend and fellow sister-in-loss Caroline reminded me of how God provided manna for the Israelites each morning--a fact she reminded herself of every day during her pregnancy with her second daughter.  

In Exodus 16, we see the story of how God provided food for the Israelites as they wandered in the desert. The Israelites had recently been miraculously set free from a life of bondage in Egypt. Despite all the merciful things God had done for them, the Israelites grumbled over their hunger and yearned for the days they had been slaves (but with full bellies) in a foreign land. Hearing their complaint, God graciously said he would rain bread, later named “manna”, down from heaven for them to eat. He gave special instructions for each person to gather exactly what they needed for each day, to take a double portion in preparation for the Sabbath, and to never store an abundance to keep overnight. Each morning, the Israelites set out to gather the manna God faithfully provided each day. If they gathered more than they needed, the manna would spoil and become infested with maggots overnight. They were only to gather what was sufficient for that day, trusting that God would remain faithful tomorrow.

Just like the Israelites, we often find ourselves grumbling about our current circumstances (despite God’s proven faithfulness to us) and trying to store up more than we need, rather than trusting that God will provide what is sufficient for each day. Just as the Israelites grumbled after being delivered from a life of slavery, I found myself crying out in fear after receiving the miraculous gift of an unexpected yet long-desired pregnancy. After years of pleading with God for a healthy child, God generously gave us Andrew--a baby God never “owed” me, but in His mercy entrusted to us. Yet despite him miraculously parting the metaphorical “Red Sea” of infertility, recurrent miscarriage, and PCOS, I found myself desperately trying to store up all of the answers I thought I needed to carry me through the next five months. But the truth is, the striving, collecting, and the best-laid plans for the future can spoil. We are called to rest in that daily sufficient grace God continues to provide to us fresh each  morning.

Throughout my pregnancy with Andrew, I often reminded myself of the story of God’s provision for the Israelites and his never-ending sufficiency. It would do me no good to worry about the anatomy scan, preterm labor, or the details of my delivery. Sure, I could make healthy choices, educate myself on signs of preterm labor, and research ways to prepare for a successful VBAC, but I needed to hold those plans loosely and trust in God to give me the perfect amount of what I would need for each day that would come my way.

I am not at all claiming that I was a pro at this, because I wasn’t. Just as God provided the “manna” I needed for each day, I needed to make a choice to gather His truth and comfort each morning. Each day, I needed to resist the urge to frantically store up fears for tomorrow--some days I was successful and other days my frenzied plans and gnawing worries weighed me down and spoiled.

I was reminded of God’s sufficiency once again as I was admitted to the hospital with preterm labor and an insufficient cervix when I was only 22 weeks pregnant. (Yep, it’s really called “insufficient cervix”--talk about a lesson in trusting God for His sufficiency.) My cervix had begun to open and the contractions seemed to keep coming. “Each day is a victory,” doctors and nurses continued to say as I was pumped with medications and confined to hospital bedrest in an attempt to stall my labor. For the next 10 weeks, I went to sleep each night not knowing if I would wake up pregnant the next day. Each morning, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for another day pregnant. The concept of “manna for each day” became even more real during that 10-week hospital stay (which sometimes felt like 40 years in the desert, but with a little more than manna and quail on the hospital menu). As my labor continued to have multiple starts and stops, I was reminded that God is sufficient for each day--trying to store up more for tomorrow by worrying would only spoil.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus emphasized sufficiency when taught his disciples to how to pray. He said, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’.” Notice that Jesus does not say, “Give us an abundance” or “Give us enough to fill our storehouses for the next nine months”. Jesus tells us to ask for our daily bread--for what is sufficient. And in John 6:33, we see that the true bread from heaven is Jesus--he who came down from heaven and gives life to the world. Jesus is enough.

As we continue to trust God for our daily bread (“manna” if you will), we learn to trust in Him rather than in our circumstances. We learn to fix our eyes on Him rather than our fear. It is in this posture that we practice true surrender and learn the necessity of our full reliance on Christ, rather than ourselves.

Proverbs 30:7-9 “Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”


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