A Faith Informed Perspective
“For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.” 1 Kings 17:14
I have been watching the news lately, attending to the global health and economic concerns with some interest. I find there are various responses to these concerns, mostly manifested in feelings of fear, anxiety and caution. It is interesting that all this is occurring during this season of Lent. This forty-day period follows the way of Jesus as He proceeds on His mission to express the generous, sacrificial and saving love that culminates in His crucifixion and then resurrection.
In my life, Lent pushes into the places of my fears and calls for greater faith. In the practice of fasting during the season I am reminded that earthly things were never intended to become my security. Yet, what I find is that the world in crisis often gives into fear rather than reaching out in faith to the Creator of all things. This propensity to fear easily tempts me to guard my resources in the face of scarcity rather than to be generous with all God provides. It is difficult to be generous when I allow phrases like “fixed income”, “finite resources”, or “financial security” to be the primary shaping influence of my perspective. There seems to exist a certain “panic driven” reaction to the varied information regarding health and economic safety.
All the concerns surrounding this present time are not to be ignored or dismissed, but too often there is a reaction without any appropriate discernment. The discernment I speak of is not just based on determining what is best for my family, my friends, and me, but in discerning and determining God’s larger and more encompassing will for all humanity. How will God’s goodness, grace and love be manifested in the midst of the crisis? This is at least one question that might help inform my perspective.
In the story from 1 Kings 17 about Elijah the prophet of God, there is a situation involving a widow, her child and a severe drought. Elijah is led to a desolate place to find the provision of God. There, in the midst of inadequate earthly resources, he asks this widow for some water and bread. Both are in extremely short supply and the widow has scraped together enough for one last meal with her child. Elijah’s request seems incredibly invasive, yet his request is followed by a promise of God’s ongoing provision. The promise is simply, “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry”. God promises provision that exceeds what the widow can see. It is a provision beyond human logic and therefore calls for faith in God’s ability to transcend human limitation and deficiencies.
The promise “God will provide.” Can seem like a trite cliché in the midst of need and suffering. Yet, as much as it may sound like a cliché, the truth remains that our lives have always been sustained, whether we acknowledge it or not, by the gracious provision of God. Ultimately, and I remind myself often of this, the provision of God is not limited to earthly resources, but finds its deepest fulfillment in His own being. God is my help, my refuge, the bread of life, the living water and my salvation. When He provides He provides Himself most of all. He has come to be with me so that I might be with Him in the places defined by His abundance and fullness.
The author Thomas Green SJ made a comment once that most of us would prefer to live life of “God and” rather than “God only”. The question I often ask myself is, when all else is being stripped away, is God enough. This leads me back to the place of my faith, and it is faith in God that pushes back against my fears in the midst of crisis. It is faith in God as my secure and sure foundation that stabilizes me in the storms of adversity that come with life. It is God Himself who is true food in the midst of desolation and diminishing resources.
It is the Lord who will provide what is best and appropriate for my life. And as I am showered with God’s goodness, even in desolation, I can resist the temptation to horde and guard resources and be generous instead. Scarcity provides a further opportunity to trust God’s care and, like Jesus, be generous with all of life. It is the lesson I constantly need to be reminded of and learn. I am, by faith in Jesus, learning to desire “God only” rather than “God and”, and to further release those things that keep me distracted by, and enslaved to my own fears and selfishness. Will you join me in turning to Jesus and inviting Him to provide, and be, all we need? Here is some music to encourage your faith.