In 1,000 Gifts, Ann Voskamp explains that the Hebrew word “manna” means mystery. In their wandering in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, the food the God of heaven and earth rained down on the Israelites was literally mystery. The sweet manna bread was given purposefully to be only sufficient for one day at a time, keeping the children of Israel continuously dependent on God to supply their each and every need day by day. No matter how many days God provided faithfully for them, they wondered with each new one if He could do it again. So it is for His children today: we are dependent on His provision each and every day. He faithfully provides for our needs, yet we are often filled with doubt that He will do it again. Our lives are full of paradoxes: glories and suffering fall on us all; rain falls on both the just and the unjust. So much is unexplained; our walk with the Lord can be nothing besides a walk of faith. We feed on mystery too.
In A Chance to Die, Elisabeth Elliott’s captivating biography of missionary Amy Carmichael, a letter is quoted that was sent to her by her mother. Amy had suffered a fall that caused an abnormal nerve response throughout her whole body. It left her bedridden for the rest of her life. These words encouraged Amy’s remarkable faith and trust in the Lord that would be an example to many around the world in the coming years:
“He who hath led will lead, all through the wilderness.
He who hath fed will feed.
He who hath heard thy cry, will never close His ear.
He who hath marked Thy faintest sigh, will not forget thy tear.
He loveth always, faileth never, so rest in Him today, forever.”
I too, am currently in what could be called a wilderness season; I seem to have lost the path to the Promised Land. Trials of health and loss of career have led me out of Egypt and into a new place of dependence; the path is unknown and seems illuminated only one step at a time. I feed on mystery meted out in doses sufficient for each day. But if I’m wandering in circles through desert, I’m not wandering there alone. God has provided sweet sustenance through His presence and the companionship of true friends. He has fed my soul with beauty and peace; even the prickly cacti bloom in the barren land. I’m reminded of the prayer of George VI at the dawning of a new year:
“I said to the man at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light, that I may walk safely into the unknown.’ He said to me, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. It shall be to you better than the light and safer than the known.”
And so it is, and so shall it be. We put our hands into the hands of God and feed on the manna of His mysteries. We give thanks for it, break it, share it, and we call it…grace.