“How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”
My friend threw the question out to the circle of campers and adult volunteers to kick off a discussion time. Everyone had an opinion on the matter. Crunchy! No, smooth! Extra jelly! . . . Eh, I don’t like peanut butter.
Some waxed eloquently about the beauties of seeded wheat bread, others insisted on the white squishy kind. Needless to say, everyone had their preferences.
Whether we like the enriched, bleached kind with the crust cut off, gluten free, or a crusty baguette slathered with butter—or no bread at all—Jesus has called all of us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
So we do, dutifully. Asking God to provide the money we need for a bill, asking Him to give us a friend to help us in a tough spot, asking Him to give us more work for the month, asking Him to put food on our table before suppertime.
And He provides. In His time and in His way, in His mercy and grace, He always provides what we truly need.
Likely none of us would flinch at praying this prayer. We know God is good. But what happens when “give us this day our daily bread” turns into, Uh, Lord, I didn’t mean this bread?
It’s the feeling of opening a gift at Christmastime and realizing that the gift-giver, though with good intentions, has gotten your size or preferences completely wrong. You know you should feel grateful, but disappointment keeps creeping in. That person does love you, you’re sure of it . . . but their love doesn’t look the way you’d want it to. You had hoped for a different expression of care and affection.
Then the doubts start. Does this person actually know me? Maybe they don’t care enough to pick the best gift. Maybe this was just a re-gift from last year? Leftovers? Maybe they got you mixed up with someone else?
If we’re honest, that’s often how things can feel as we depend on the Lord. We know He loves us. We know He provides. We know He’s good. We know in our heads that He doesn’t make mistakes.
But . . . Lord, maybe You got my size wrong?
How do we pray “give us this day our daily bread” when His gifts look more like lingering disappointment or a tight, barely adequate budget than a “feast for me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5 NLT)?
We look back. We look around. We look up.
We Look Back
When the Israelites were wandering around in the wilderness, they had this exact problem. God was providing for them, step by quotidian step and day by scorching day. And His provision was good! When the people of Israel returned from exile, they remembered this. The Levites, their spiritual leaders, prayed:
“You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst” (Neh. 9:15).
But in spite of that amazing care, the Israelites back in the day said, Uh, Lord, we don’t like manna. They were tired of eating the same miraculous bread that fell from the sky day after day after day. God, Your provision, it’s just meh. The food we ate in Egypt as slaves, we’d rather have that than Your presence and goodness.
How did God respond? In anger—and in mercy.
In various ways throughout their journey, God disciplined the Israelites for their ingratitude, grumbling, and rebellion. But He also continued to provide and show them His mercy. After remembering the ways God showed His anger, the exiles’ pastors continued:
“But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go.
You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell” (Neh. 9:17–21, emphasis added).
Bottom line? Even when we struggle to give thanks, even when we’re tempted to complain about the daily bread that He’s given us, He will not forsake us. His provision is still good. His mercies are still new every morning.
When the bread doesn’t look like you imagined, like the exiles, remember how He has provided for you, your family, and believers across the centuries. Steady your heart with memories of His faithful, good, “daily bread” provision, and pray those back to Him.
We Look Around
Looking around isn’t looking around at how He’s providing for others and comparing. It’s stepping back to really take in the signs of His goodness.
What do we look at?
First look at the natural world. God shows His care in how He provides for the creatures we may not notice.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:26–30)
Friend, you’re worth more than grass. God values you more than birds. Because of this, you can be sure: He will provide what is needed for you just like He does them.
You can also look at what you have been given and give thanks. Yes, even when it is the manna you’re sick of. When Jesus faced a massive, hungry crowd, and humanly speaking, much less bread than they wanted and needed, what did He do? (I know He worked a miracle. What did He do before that?) He gave thanks for what His Father had already provided.
And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. (Matt. 15:34–36)
It doesn’t say that He begged the Father for more or shrugged and said, It’s up to You, now, Father. Of course not! He was God Himself! He knew that He could provide food for all these people. Yet even He stopped to give thanks. How much more should we, when we ask for God to multiply our small loaves, thank Him that we have the loaves in the first place?
So, look around you. There’s glimpses of His goodness if you watch for them.
We Look Up
Finally, after we look back (remember) and look around (acknowledge His goodness), we look up. We let God lift up our faces from the dust of disappointment and gaze upon His beautiful face and His righteous purposes in the world.
Take this passage to heart today.
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” (Ps. 27:4–8)
One thing is needed. Look up at your good God, like David did. Trust that He is your light and salvation (v. 1), even when your daily bread is disappointing. He will protect you even when what you have doesn’t seem to be enough, and He has your best interests at heart—to make you like His Son.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom. 8:28–29)
Beyond that, look up from your bread at the bigger picture: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). There may be something much larger at stake than what you’re asking for—though that may be important and needed, too! God’s glory and His good purposes for the world may mean that you get the kind of bread you dislike or have to trust Him each and every day for new provision. He might be using that disappointing bread to bring about His purposes in you and the world.
Regardless of how He moves in your situation today, He will care for you. He will take what you have and make it adequate or bring good out of it, or He will provide something better.
In the meantime, pick your seeded or white, squishy “daily bread” up off the ground (did it fall from heaven?), and look to Him. Remember His goodness and thank Him. Seek His kingdom, seek His face, and trust: He loves you, and He will take care of you.