One night while in the trenches of a lengthy battle with Lyme disease, I sat at home perusing Facebook in an attempt to feel somewhat connected with the world.
In case you’re not familiar with Lyme disease, it means frequent fevers + chronic fatigue + substantial memory loss + physical pain + strange bodily sensations + mounting medical bills + unknown prognosis + feeling you can never keep up + fear of never amounting to much.
That night the sad condition of my heart collided with Facebook pictures of a former schoolmate whose life seemed amazingly productive. Her healthy, energetic self with her full quiver of children seemed to effortlessly sail through adventures in their booming metropolis. Life on her planet was good. I was jealous.
Thankfully, my heavenly Father didn’t allow my heart to linger in self-pity. He didn’t let me blame my sin on fatigue, decry the perils of Facebook, or falsely accuse my friend of being pretentious.
Rather, He gently reminded me, “Darla, remember My manna.”
I thought back to God’s provision of manna for the children of Israel while they were traveling through the wilderness:
“You shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 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.” (Deut. 8:2–3)
In His care God led Israel through a time of testing and meagerness. Why? Because their hearts were sinful and they needed to see this. Without this awareness they—and we—would never see our desperate need for a Savior. The manna was a daily reminder that their most essential provision could not come from their own hand. God gave them food their fathers had never before seen; miraculous food that sustained them for forty years. They’re not the only ones; we can’t provide the life-giving power our sinful hearts need for eternity; it only comes from the hand of the Bread of Life.
As a believer who has partaken of Jesus Christ, the trial of Lyme Disease is a gift that helps me see how much I need Christ. Were it not for the weakness ignited by a chronic illness, I would not as easily realize my pride, jealousy, unbelief, and critical spirit that secretly nestle in my heart. These sins burst forth with greater strength and clarity when life is especially hard. Yet in the midst of it all, the magnificence of Christ and His grace toward me (and every believer) shines with even greater brilliance!
In the wilderness Israel cried out for something different. But God told them this path of testing was “to do you good in the end” (Deut. 8:14b). The Lord wanted them to see Him as their greatest treasure and only hope. And we are the same, but with the superior promises purchased by Christ.
When the Lord allows earthly suffering, we as New Testament believers can trust that He is redeeming it. He sees us! He hears us! He has our best and His glory in mind! He gives us the true manna of His Son, never leaving us alone in a parched land. And as we call to Him in the wilderness, His merciful grace sharpens the eyes of our weary hearts enabling us to cherish Christ above anything else in this world.
I’d love to hear from you. Are you looking for the Lord’s redeeming work in the midst of your personal trial? How is the Lord strengthening you to treasure Christ in the wilderness?