Numbers 11 recounts a terrible yet far too familiar story of discontentment, ingratitude, and the resulting anger of God being administered. The sobering conclusion of the passage begins to put into perspective how seriously the Lord takes these things. While God does send meat to the desperate, complaining Israelites, he strikes down those who craved it and who complained about only eating manna. This discontentment occurred when the Israelites began to focus on what they did not have instead of enjoying what they did have.
How often do we do this in our everyday lives? How often do we dwell on things we wish we had right now and forget about what we have been blessed with today? How often do we get caught up in our hopes and dreams for the future and don’t take advantage of the opportunities the Lord is giving us now?
This can be particularly prevalent in the professional world, especially for those (like myself) beginning our lives after graduation. In a goal-focused, outcome-oriented society, we are trained to ask ourselves, ‘What do I hope to be doing in 5 years, in 10, in 25?’ ‘How do I hope my life will look?’ ‘Will I be married?’ ‘Will I have a family?’ ‘Where will I be living?’ ‘Will I have gone back to school for a Master’s Degree?’ ‘Will I finally be the manager of that company or will I have begun my own business?’
With all of these pressures to succeed, to feel fulfilled, and to find purpose, we naturally create lists in our mind of what needs to happen to get us to that point. While good in the abstract, this method of approaching life can easily spiral us into a life of discontentment and dissatisfaction – always wanting more, always longing for something else, always pushing the limits. We can so easily forget about the present. Our vision shifts from today to tomorrow, to next week, to next month, to next year and so on. Like the Israelites, we quickly forget how far we’ve come; how much we’ve already accomplished; how God has worked in our lives and how He continues to work today.
In our world today, it seems like the greatest sources of dissatisfaction are twofold: our relationship status and our work. We gain so much of our identity from these two things that we find it hard not to be like the Israelites and only dream of what we do not have. Promotions, raises, or simple acknowledgement within the workplace can so easily become the meat for which the Israelites so desperately cried out.
Tired of the monotonous day-to-day routine, their discontentment boiled into anger with God. They became complacent and cast the blame for their sorrow onto Moses, wishing for the days in Egypt, but forgetting the reality that they had left. If we are so absorbed in praying for the meat, we will miss the manna. Too often, we forget that we’ve been freed from the oppression of slavery and sustained in the wilderness only by the grace of God. Forgetting this can cause deep-rooted discontentment. So much so, that we don’t even see the miracles right in front of us…the manna.
God miraculously provided manna for the Israelites to eat in the hot and barren desert. He didn’t need to give them food, but through his mercy, he did. He gave it not only mercifully, but faithfully too. Every morning with the dew, manna was given as a gift; as a consistent reminder of God’s goodness and his dependability, a reminder that he is completely trustworthy and in control.
What is the manna in our lives for which we too often forget to thank the Lord? A supportive Christian community? A country in which we can freely worship? A roof over our head? A job with a paycheck? God didn’t have to give the Israelites manna, just like he doesn’t have to give us breath…but he chooses to because he loves us; because we have been created in his image to bring him glory and to further his kingdom here in the world.
Oftentimes we don’t even notice the manna that the Lord provides. How can we be more attuned to the little miracles that appear in our lives each day? By praying for perspective and a grateful heart, we begin to change the way we see the world. Can we be the daily manna for another by embracing opportunities to share Christ’s love, by brightening someone’s day with a smile or kind word, by offering advice to a hurting friend, by humbly taking on extra responsibility at work to help out a coworker, by sharing joys with others?
God can use our inadequacies to impact his kingdom. We don’t need to doubt like Moses did. We can trust that God is powerful enough to meet all of our needs. Let’s be mindful of the manna that we are given each day and ask the Lord how he can use us to be the manna for others. This will wipe away our discontentment and replace it with a grateful heart.
Where am I discontent and therefore missing the chance to be a blessing to others right now?
Michelle Bendit interns in Interior Design and is a member of the 2015-2016 class of the Falls Church Fellows Program.
Images: FreeImages.com/Davide Farabegoli, Zach Taylor