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What’s in Your Jar?

If you’ve had the thrill of getting a new and shiny possession, then you’ll also know how quickly the excitement can wane.


The enthusiastic ‘unboxing’ of your new iPhone becomes the frustration of yet another software update. The ‘new car smell’ in your Ford fades. Even the person we once fell in love with begins to look a little tired.


The magic of the new wears off, and soon we’re taking God’s good gifts for granted. Even though we prayerfully asked for His blessings, and happily received them, perhaps we quietly assumed that we were going to get them anyway.


The Israelites showed how hard it can be to value God’s gifts rightly. He had delivered them from Egyptian captivity, opened the sea for them to pass through, and He was now leading them through the desert. They had a spring in their step and a song on their lips as they went forth. Yet as the trip entered its second month, the fuel gauge was getting perilously close to ‘Empty.’ Stomachs were rumbling, and mouths getting dry and parched.


How did God’s people respond? With murmuring. They remembered how in the good ol’ days along the Nile, the food supply was so much better. Facing the cruel uncertainty of the desert, they complained against God. And this was a serious failing. William Law once said, “For as thankfulness is an express acknowledgement of the goodness of God towards you, so repinings and complaints are as plain accusations of God’s want of goodness towards you.”[1]


Yet God was gracious. He hushed their grumbling with His promise: “I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Exod 16:4). With manna God would feed them every day until their arrival at Canaan.


But then the Israelites even started to complain about the marvelous manna. It was a stunning miracle that God could feed so many thousands—day after day, so freely, so fully, so faithfully. Yet God’s people tired of the miracle and came to resent its predictability. The Israelites griped that the manna wasn’t meat; they longed for leeks and grumbled for garlic. Indeed, “Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift.”[2] As obvious and beautiful as it was, they could no longer see God’s goodness.


It’s a familiar pattern, for we are hardly better than the Israelites. Soon after receiving a blessing, we stop appreciating it. Psychologists refer to this as ‘habituation,’ the tendency to quickly adjust to new circumstances and become accustomed to our changed reality. Like the Israelites, we might even find fault with God’s blessings, wishing our security was a little more secure, our happiness a little happier.

But the good God wants His people to acknowledge Him. In Exodus, God commands that a jar of manna “be kept for your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness” (Exod 16:32). The jar was a constant reminder of how God provided for the Israelites in the desert. It was a prompt to thank Him for His ongoing care.


We should celebrate the Lord’s daily mercies in a similar way.

What has God given you today?

Did your car start this morning? Today have you enjoyed food and drink? Could you rest? Could you work?


Do you have people around whom you love, and who love you?


Counting God’s daily blessings is something like having a jar of manna. We should mentally store up one gift from God, and another, and another, and one more—and soon the jar is full to overflowing, and we are moved to thank the Lord.


G.K. Chesterton once observed: “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” What have you been taking for granted? How can you begin to take them with gratitude instead?


What’s in your jar of manna?


***

[1] William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1729), (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2013), 172.

[2] Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 85.

[3] A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975), 77.

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