In the wasteland seasons of life, it often feels like God has taken everything away. The things that we once used to fill the time are no longer there. Sometimes by choice. Sometimes in spite of all our best efforts. We go from feeling busy, wanted, fulfilled or purposeful to a vaste expanse of feeling nothing. All the things we used to do for others, for ourselves, for the kingdom have fallen away and the calendar feels empty. Maybe not empty, just not full of the things that once were, just different.
We go from fruitful, lush, productive land to nothing but ugly lumps of dirt. And I remember that rest is important. That in order for the ground to be fertile, it has to rest every seven years. It feels so counterintuitive to plow up fruitful, good soil and just leave it, untapped and unused. Wouldn’t it be better to use it? But the truth is that the land must rest so that it will continue to be fruitful. If it doesn’t rest, it will lose the nourishment that makes it so prosperous.
Lately I’ve been pondering what Jesus said in John 6, that he was the bread of life. He compared himself to the manna that God sent to the Israelites in the wilderness. As I thought about it and went back to Exodus, the gift of manna was quite amazing. They were in the Wilderness of Sin and complaining about not having food. Their hungry bellies made them long for the old life of slavery. They begged Moses to take them back and criticized him for bringing them out to the desert to die.
Out of his love for his people, God decided to feed them with bread from heaven in the morning and quail at night. Consider how amazing this was after a slave life in Egypt! They didn’t have to do anything for it. They didn’t have to make money to buy grain. They didn’t have to grind grain. They didn’t have to chop wood and build a fire to bake it. If they didn’t make enough bricks the day before, the bread still came. In the wilderness, they just had to gather what they could eat in a day. And the quail came right into their camp! They didn’t have to hunt for it or track it for days. It was there. They didn’t even have to make clothes! The Bible says that their clothes didn’t wear out during those forty years. As a woman, I think it must have been an amazing time of rest to have two of my main areas of responsibility completely cared for by God. No cooking and no sewing!
When I think about Jesus being the bread that came down from heaven, I am even more amazed. He came down as God’s provision, so that I could rest. Because he died on the cross for my sins, I can be forgiven. In John 6, he describes eating the bread of life as believing in the one God sent. God loved us so much that he didn’t see us wandering in the Wilderness of Sin and turn away. Rather he chose to make provision for us. Abundant provision so that we could rest.
The amazing thing about grace is that I didn’t do anything to deserve it. So even when I’m doing nothing, God’s love, grace, and provision remain. In the wasteland, he takes everything away so that he can be my provision. He wants to be everything to me so that I will learn to trust him with everything. Sometimes I think he gets tired of competing with everything else in my life and he takes it all away so he can have me all to himself. He wants to be my salvation so I don’t have to strive and work to make my own way. Jesus is the bread of life, manna from heaven, and when I eat him, when I take him into my heart, I gain eternal life.
Rest sounds good, and I know it’s important, so why do I hate it so much? Mostly because I’m not in control. It’s not manageable and predictable in the wasteland. It’s boring because every day and every meal is the same. Plus without all the distractions I’m forced to see myself for who I really am and sometimes that’s not so pretty. I have to admit that my identity was defined by doing, that I believed I was only valuable because of what I did. But he takes me into the wilderness to remind me who I am. To remind that I am His and He is mine. To remember that I am no longer a slave in Egypt, but a chosen one on the way to the Promised Land.
There have been days when I have grumbled and complained just like the Israelites. It feels like he brought me out to the wasteland to die. And yet he is patient with me. And I know that I am loved, not because of all things I have done or not done, but because of all that He has done for me. He brought me here so that I could die…to myself. So that I could find life in Him alone. He knows I am like the fruitful field that needed to rest for a season. When I enter into this season of rest, I am not bound to the busy-ness of life and expectations of others. I am free to rest.
Will you enter into His rest today?