“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” — Deuteronomy 8:3
I used to give the ancient Israelites a tough time for their behavior after they were delivered from Egypt. I could not understand their flat-out refusal to believe that God would faithfully provide for them in the wilderness. He sent you a deliverer, He opened the Red Sea for you … of course He is going to take care of you! Why are you all whining?
I took copious notes in the margin of my Bible, reminding myself not to be like those people. I thought that would be easy to do; after all, I genuinely loved God and wanted to please Him.
My faith was genuine, but not that deep. I believed my relationship with God depended more on my intelligence and striving to be a good girl rather than realizing that God, the true Lover of my soul, was the One holding onto me, warts and all. I had yet to understand the wonderful truth of God’s sovereignty and the implications it had for my life. In many ways, I believed I ran the show.
Then I found myself in a proverbial desert, a place that would mark the most difficult year of my life.
The sun scorched, and I looked in vain for the relief of shade. I was bewildered, confused and scared. God’s past interventions, blessings and fellowship in my life seem to mock me as I fought to hold on to my theology. I was exhausted from engaging in spiritual warfare and trying to cling to God. But most of all I was desperate for relief. I had come to the end of myself.
I begged for an exit from my trial, utterly convinced that I could no longer bear it, yet deliverance did not come for many months (and I absolutely hated waiting for it).
There is nothing quite like a hard situation to make you question God’s care for you.
No water in sight
In the Exodus account, Moses tells us the nation of Israel wandered around for three days with no water…in the desert. When they finally found water, it was bitter. Talk about desperation.
Was God being cruel? I’m sure that felt like a slap in the face. You’re thirsty, wondering if you are going to die. You finally come across water, and it’s bitter.
Moses tells us he cried out to God, who then showed him how to make the water drinkable.
God knew the whole time His children would be OK. In fact, they would be more than OK; He was leading them to their promised land! He loved them, had plans for them and had just destroyed an entire army of people who wanted to harm them. He knew He would provide them with water. But they didn’t know that. They needed to learn a few things about their God:
“There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, ‘If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.’ Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.” (Exodus 15:25b-27)
I’m in awe as I write this, reflecting on God’s hard work in my life. God had an extremely important lesson He needed to drive home for the Israelites as well as for me. He would be the one to heal them. He would be their provider. It was absolutely crucial that they learned to depend on Him for the battles that lay ahead.
It’s a lesson that wouldn’t have gone very deep had the experience not been as desperate as it was (I can testify to that).
When we feel the scourging of the sun, our self-sufficient and prideful human nature opens us up to lessons and truths we would otherwise not be able to absorb. But God is not ignorant to the pain these lessons can cause. I love what we find in Exodus 15:27: “Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.” After their ordeal, God brought them to a place of recovery and abundant springs! Our pain is not unnoticed by our God.
Let God hold you
What thirst or hunger are you currently experiencing? It could be the pain of a broken relationship or a returning illness. Or perhaps it’s the disappointment of unrealized dreams. I would say anything that has left you feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach is a “thirst.” You have a need that needs attention — and it looks like it is not being met. I don’t know when or how your need will be met, but I know God wants to give you more of himself. Resist the urge to fight God, and let Him hold you until He brings you to your spring. Perhaps He is trying to draw you to a deeper reliance on Him.
And at the end of the day, that is all we truly need.