“Disoriented” wasn’t the descriptor you chose as your word for the year. Delighted. Steadfast. Secure. All of those were at the top of your brainstorming list in December, but now it’s March—and life feels lopsided. Unbalanced. Even the most routine aspects of your day are always changing. Sound familiar?
- You may have a new baby, or a new boss, or a new home to unpack.
- You may be in the midst of responsibilities or circumstances that are so overwhelming, you're not sure which way is up or down, where you are, or where you’re headed.
- You may just be feeling so worn down by the end of winter that it’s become difficult for you to find any kind of rhythm.
For a lot of last year, I struggled to get my bearings. Teaching students inside a psychiatric hospital in the middle of the pandemic left me feeling unsteady all semester long—it felt like a year where it was always winter, never spring. But the worst disorientation came the day before summer began, when I tripped in the classroom and landed on my arm. The fall happened fast; it was a clumsy moment that had immediate consequences.
If you’ve ever broken a bone or had any kind of medical procedure, you know what it’s like for pain to startle you out of sleep in the middle of the night. That’s why, when I left urgent care and began staying at my parents’ house, two things remained on the bedside table at all times: a bottle of pain pills, which I wasn’t supposed to swallow without food, and a handful of almonds, which I would stretch out and grab with my good arm at 2 a.m.
This routine of waking up and reaching for almonds lasted through weeks of little sleep and months living out of my suitcase. I craved routine. What remains when normalcy is gone?
Rules that Remain
In an upside-down season of pain and abnormal scheduling, I found two rules to be true:
- No matter what’s going on, you still have to eat.
- You’ll feel worse if you try to take pills on an empty stomach.
Think about it: when your friend is in the middle of a difficult breakup, you bring her ice cream and Kleenex and refuse to let her skip meals. When your child comes down with the flu, you make sure he’s getting enough fluids. Why? Because you know their bodies need nourishment to push through the circumstances they’re facing.
This is true for our spiritual needs, too. As I was recovering from surgery, I woke up one morning and realized the difference it would make if I rolled over, brushed a rogue almond off my pillow, and opened the Bible app on my phone. I had put off reading altogether because the situation didn’t allow for me to study at my usual time in my normal place using my preferred method. But as I drew back the covers and began to scroll, the simple practice grounded the rest of my day.
When life takes a turn, most of us tend to push Bible reading aside until our circumstances return to normal. If you’re not able to sit down at your kitchen table for a quiet hour of in-depth study, you don’t even crack open God’s Word. Somewhere along the way, you’ve told yourself that if you’re not able to feast, you shouldn’t eat at all, not realizing that a handful of almonds in the middle of the night is far better than allowing your soul to starve.
Food in the Desert
In Exodus 16, the Israelites’ world had been flipped upside down. It was “the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left the land of Egypt” (v. 1). Their disorientation was on a level we cannot begin to comprehend. They were tired. They were frustrated. They were hungry.
And God was gracious. He began providing food for them to eat in the wilderness. He gave them meat to eat at twilight and manna to satisfy them in the morning (Ex. 16:8). Through the practice of supplying them with daily meals, God was showing them:
- He would provide: not always in ways they expected but in ways that they needed.
- He would continue to look after them and sustain them in a hard place.
- He would be faithful to do what He said that He would do, day after day.
In the desert, in their wandering, the Israelites ate. What other choice did they have? They needed the food to live. God kept providing—even when they despised it and desperately wanted something different (Num. 11:4–6). The predictability of this mealtime routine gave them opportunities—whether or not they chose to accept them—to turn their attention to God’s continued faithfulness.
You have opportunities in this current season to consume God’s Word. You have moments today where you can turn to Scripture and allow it to reorient the rest of your day. The question isn’t whether or not God will provide—He’s already given you His Word. The question is if you’ll find a few moments to eat and to remember the One whose hand it comes from.
In Joshua 5, the manna stopped coming. But let’s rewind for a moment: imagine a montage of all the different places the Israelites ate throughout forty years. Picture a map with a wafer at every point where they went out to gather what they needed to survive.
You may not be able to map out what the rest of this year (or this week) will look like, but imagine a map of all the places you could consume Scripture, even in this unusual season.
- What if you could look back months from now and find a trail of wafers leading from your bed to your baby’s nursery, where you returned to reread the same chapter every night?
- What if there was a marker on every waiting room chair to represent all the times you read parts of the Gospels before seeing a doctor?
- What if there was one wafer inside each of your shoes, for all the afternoons you laced them up, went on a walk, and listened to an audio version of God’s Word?
For the Israelites, not every meal was memorable. But if they had gone without eating, they never would have made it through the desert—and neither will we.
No Pills on an Empty Stomach
You already know that when you don’t eat, it’s harder to stomach what comes next. You don’t have to be a dog parent sneaking pills into lumps of peanut butter, or Mary Poppins herself to know that a spoonful of sugar helps medicine go down.
When you fill up on Scripture, even when it’s only a few bites at a time, you are more prepared to embrace your circumstances and face whatever comes next. God’s Word gives you
- Encouragement. “For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.” (Rom. 15:4)
- Perspective. “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ.” (1 Pet. 4:12–13)
- Motivation. “Therefore we do not give up.. . . For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16–18)
- Hope. “Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lam. 3:21–23)
- Gratitude. “For the LORD is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)
- Courage. “He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the LORD.” (Psalm 112:7)
- Acceptance. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)
A Handful at a Time
The Israelites moved on from manna eventually. When they arrived in the Promised Land, they discovered “a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey” (Deut. 8:8), and they no longer needed the meals that sustained them in the desert. In both places, but in different ways, God gave food, and they ate.
Eventually, you’ll move on, too. You’ll have more time or more capacity for bigger meals, more time you can spend in God’s Word. But this month, snack on Scripture: standing up, sitting down, in the middle of the night, or on the move. Later, you can linger at the table. For now, keep eating, one bite at a time—and may even the smallest handful of truth be a feast for your soul.