Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a glass-half-empty guy. Always have been. I’m not sure if it’s a personality thing, the way I was raised, perhaps some series of events in my past, or maybe I was simply born this way. Who knows? Whatever the case, I’m certainly more of a pessimist than an optimist. Just ask my wife.
It’s not something I’m proud of, and I certainly wish my default perspective was naturally optimistic with the view that everything was going to work out. But it’s not. Sadly, along with pessimism comes worry and anxiety. It is uncanny how I can manufacture things to worry about. I am a master at creating self-induced anxiety about nothing. I can identify with Mark Twain who said, “I have endured many trials in my life, most of which never happened.”
The past year certainly hasn’t been what one would call normal. One could not avoid the prevalence of racial tensions, divisive political rhetoric, and oh, while we’re at it, throw in a worldwide pandemic. With the current circumstances, I can almost feel justified in my pessimism and worry. Though it feels right, and my pessimism feels like I am simply being realistic, as a follower of Jesus I am called to live differently.
The Lord has been teaching me a theme carried all throughout the Bible. At all times, God is constantly teaching his people about dependence. He is always teaching his people that there is a God and you’re not Him. You and I are not in control, never have been and never will be. We are not self-sufficient, autonomous creatures. Instead, we are absolutely dependent, and our neediness knows no end. This neediness is intended to point us to a God who loves us, who can be trusted, who has promised to provide for our every need.
I’m reminded of the story of the Israelites in the wilderness and how God provided manna for them to eat every day. God ordained that they could only gather enough manna for each day. If they gathered more, trying to make some carryover to the next day, it would rot and be filled with maggots. The only day they could gather more was the day before the Sabbath. They could not take a break from their need for God.
It was a daily thing. They had no control over it. I’m sure they had to be asking themselves the question, “Will God’s provision be there tomorrow?” It always was. One would think that after seeing the manna day after day, year after year, without one interruption (not even a late delivery) the people would trust God, rest in His care and not worry. Nope.
The same theme is prevalent in the New Testament. In the discourse of the sermon on the mount, particularly Matthew 6:26-34, Jesus is telling his followers to trust God today rather than worry about tomorrow. He says worry won’t add a single hour to your life; don’t waste your time. He uses the imagery of the birds of the air being fed and the flowers of the field being adorned. He says in essence, “Trust God for today’s provision, period. And tomorrow do it again.” Just like the manna.
As I enter a new year, it is natural to hope for more preferable circumstances related to a virus, social issues, economic conditions or whatever. But I need to be reminded daily that my hope and joy are not dependent on better circumstances but on a person, the God of the universe, who alone is in control. Because he loves me, he gave up his life on a cross and rose from the dead that my greatest need would be met for all eternity. Am I willing to trust him for heaven but not for earth? How does that make sense?
Robbie Rice is a pastor of Community Groups at Watermark Community Church. He and his wife Robin (TCA 8th Grade Bible Teacher) have been married for 23 years. They have three children, Ramie '18, Riley '19 and Rhett (11th). He enjoys helping people connect with others in order to experience authentic, biblical friendship.