A Paycheck or Manna

 Standing at the edge of Lake Michigan, in the quaint little town of Suttons Bay, my cell phone rang, interrupting a serene moment of my vacation.  It was my employer.  She informed me that the department I had worked in was closed and my position had been eliminated.  I could pick up my severance check when I returned to California.

“Wow, Lord,” I said with a sigh after hanging up the phone.  Raising my son, as a single mom in my early 50’s, just got more challenging.  The sky was blue with patchy clouds and my ten year old was enjoying the aqua water as he splashed around in the bay.  I saw no reason to ruin the vacation.

Upon returning home, I set about the business of finding another job, conserving my finances to make sure we could survive the downward swirl of a faltering economy.  Needless to say, I prayed and prayed and prayed.

Three months went by before I was hired in a slightly different field than what I had been doing for the last 30 years.  My salary was commission only, with a potential to earn substantial amounts of money.  In reality, the “potential big bucks” never arrived.   Though I was learning new skills, my income for that year was less than half of what I had been earning annually at my previous job.  I had been looking for a better place of employment, while I was working, but couldn’t find any position that paid more than I was already making.

Another telephone call informed me that I had been laid-off and my position eliminated at my current workplace.  This time, finances were much more strained.  There were no more savings and debts had been rising as I supplemented my income to take care of my family.  I had gambled on trying to wait things out, hoping the economy would start to recover and I would be able to return to my field of expertise.  I had gambled and it looked like I just lost.

“Now what do I do, Lord?” I looked up with a very worried glance at the sky.

As far as I knew, I was trying to do all the right things.  I was trusting in God to take care of me.  I knew the verses in the Bible where the Lord promised to provide for the needs of those that believed on Him.  While I waited for God to come through for me, I was trying to find a job, trying to be responsible and willing to take any type of employment that would enable me to support myself and my child.  Here I was again, after a fifteen month struggle, without income and without prospects.  This time the tears flowed.

 “Hope deferred, maketh the heart sick:…” (Proverbs 13:12a).  Man, I could relate to that one!  I could barely read the promises of God.  They felt like I was being teased.  I do believe God’s Word is true.  I was wrestling with the “when” factor.  I know God’s timing is perfect and I should be able to rejoice in that knowledge.  But while one is hurting and waiting for a speedy answer and not getting one, well, that is the tough part.  It makes the pressures of life almost unbearable.

On my way to the accountant’s office, to get my taxes figured, it was overcast and drizzling.  The weather provided a perfect reflection of my mood.  I saw two rainbows as I drove on the freeway.  The flood is over?  Their significance didn’t escape me, but I couldn’t regain my hope for better things to come.  I was discouraged and couldn’t rise above my looming desolation.

 “Since you made so little money this year,” my accountant leaned back in his chair, “you’ll receive all of your taxes back,” he finished triumphantly.

I knew the amount of my tax refund money would support me for 2-3 months, but I could barely thank God for it.  I cried over the fact that I wasn’t very grateful.  It felt like my trouble had only been stalled for another few months.  The problem still existed.

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed” (Psalm 37:3).    I had read this verse in a book on sermons from one of my favorite preachers, one morning a few days after my trip to the accountant’s office.  That same afternoon a friend emailed me the same verse.  When I get a scripture or some lesson or fact presented to me twice from completely unrelated sources, I pay attention.  There were two separate rainbows the day of my deep despair and now this verse was offered to me twice in the same day “…that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matthew 18:16).

 “What do I really want?” I thought or maybe it was a still small voice.

“I want to know money is coming in on a regular basis,” I answered myself.

“How long of a guarantee would you like?” the thought or still small voice countered.

I mulled over the question.  Does a paycheck every two weeks mean stability?  After losing two jobs, I knew that wasn’t true.  A job or a paycheck is still just one of the ways the Lord provides for us.  Its perceived security makes one relax and rest.   But what if God wanted to meet my needs in a far different way?   What if He just sent me money, like he did food or Manna to the children of Israel in the Old Testament?   The people had no evidence of provision, only God’s promise that He would feed them – everyday.   And the Lord did just that for forty years!

It would feel crazy, yes, and insecure because there is no way to know where the money would come from.  Yet, how many Christians have successfully lived their lives trusting in God?  The Lord may meet needs in ways that seem normal, like conventional employment, or in methods that are strange and very uncomfortable, because there is nothing tangible to rely on.  Either way, God wants us to trust Him moment by moment, day by day, month by month and year by year.  Jesus instructed the disciples to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

Because I am not quite ready to go out on a limb and then saw it off, I am continuing to look for a job.  As I send out my resume and network with people to see if I can become gainfully employed again, I pray often for the Lord to bless these efforts.   He knows that I desire to work and provide for my family.  But I am also watching God to see what He is doing.  I have noticed, besides the huge tax return, that other expenses have lessened and I have run across unexpected reductions in prices of items just at the time I needed to purchase them.  I’ve had a few individuals come up to me and give me money, stating God told them to do it.  Others have secretly paid for things that I needed.

Most of us have stories of strange provisions in our lives.  It has probably happened more than we realize, because we don’t consider such things to be manna from God.  Choosing to look at whatever I receive in life as directly from God’s hand, be it explainable by a standard paycheck or the unexplainable, breeds a grateful heart. It also brings an awareness of God’s love for us, His personal involvement in our day-to-day lives and that He does mean what He says.

I’m starting to wonder about this “manna” thing: “…he that gathered much had nothing left over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating” (Exodus 16:18b).  There is a ‘gathering” aspect to this whole provision of God.  I can see that I need to be involved in the process.  There is action to be undertaken on my part.  Therefore, I will go out into the workplace, gather up what I can and see what the Lord has for me.  If that translates to a regular paycheck, I don’t think I will be looking at it the same as I once did.

“Manna,” which means “What is it?” has a sense of wonder to it.  It is an unknown marvel that is beneficial to the gatherer and her family.  I believe there is Manna for me every morning until I can obtain the employment that I am actively pursuing.  When I start back to work again, in my heart, I will be grateful for another form of “Manna!”

Karen S. Reimer makes her home, with her 12 year old son, in Southern California.  She is an Escrow Officer by trade and a writer at heart.  Her favorite subject is the grace of God.  Her book, “Out of Weakness, Made Strong,” was published in December, 2006.  Karen is currently working on her second book and writing freelance articles on various websites to encourage other Christians.
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