How to Find Contentment in Our Daily Bread
I met some friends for coffee recently. Between us, we spend our days in multiple places, doing vastly different things—one is a pastor, some are writers, some are office or punch-card employees; several of us are mothers. However different our daily tasks, we realized that a similar theme was arising in our hearts and conversation. We each felt a desire for purpose, to provide our families, congregations, readers, or companies with something noteworthy, something valuable. To preach a sermon or write a book that would be remembered and not forgotten. To create in our work or our children something lasting, something that would not simply vanish by evening.
In other words, our challenge was to find contentment in our daily bread—knowing it will not last for tomorrow but provide nourishment for today. Knowing that tomorrow we will seek and provide daily bread again.
What Is Our Daily Bread?
The image of our efforts vanishing before evening brought to my mind the ancient Hebrews. When God led the Hebrew people into the wilderness, he went before them, leading the way as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I love to consider this image, for it strikes me as such a profoundly mixed bag: they could see him, always before them. They could see him with their eyes. But this incredible, unbelievable, I’ll-never-get-used-to-this miracle required constant surrender. The mothers and fathers, the elderly and children, the sick and the strong—none of them had any control, any choices, any decisions. There was no big picture or GPS to study or speculate—just trust. When he stopped, they stopped. When he moved, they moved.
This would be hard enough, but what about food? Before two months had passed, they were complaining, “If only we had died in Egypt, where at least we had enough food to eat! What is the good of leading us into the wilderness to starve?” (Exodus 16). Once again, God provided in ways that both fill me with awe and wonder and push me to the limits of belief and trust: He fed them with manna.
Why Trusting God for Our Daily Bread is Hard
Each morning when they woke from sleep, a layer of dew lay across the ground outside their tents. But this was no ordinary moisture—white and flaky, it was their daily bread, and it must be collected and baked into cakes before the rising sun melted it. Each person must gather what they needed for the day, but no more: any left overnight would be spoiled and full of worms the next morning.
Oh, the ancient Hebrews! I have so much empathy for their situation. On the one hand, what a privilege God offered them! They could see the Lord! They could see themselves in the palm of his hand, in the center of his loving provision.
But on the other hand, he required so much daily trust. They were wandering in the wilderness. In order to accept the gift of his presence and nourishment, they must let go of their own plans and hopes—even the ability to make plans or pursue hopes—entirely.
How to Receive the Daily Bread God Offers
I come back to these images again and again in my own life, for I don’t see our own reality as so very different. Occasionally we catch glimpses of God’s presence and provision right here in the midst of our daily reality, and I am left speechless in awe and worship. I can look behind me and proclaim what I couldn’t see at the time: “Jesus led me all the way.” Not that I ever knew where he was going—it was never more than a glimpse of cloud. Not that the years have been easy and pain-free; in fact, as I look backward now to seasons of darkness and struggles, it is often here that I realize how closely he carries us, how gently he feeds us.
But I can’t see into the future, don’t know where he’s leading next, can only trust in today’s provision and hope for tomorrow. In other words, receive his daily bread.
This is one of the challenges of life: learning to let go of tomorrow and be content with daily bread.
Finding Purpose and Life in Our Daily Bread
For my friends and me, drinking iced tea and iced coffee on a hot day, we lay our insecurities on the table and wonder if it’s enough, if we are enough. If our efforts to provide today’s nourishment for our families, communities, and congregations is enough. What if nothing we ever say, write, or do is remembered later? What if it sustains someone for today but vanishes by evening?
In our culture, we’re encouraged to dream big, to make a difference, to change the world. But often I find God in the smaller, daily details. Like the Hebrews in the wilderness, I find his presence and his provision in daily bread. In the smiles of my children or a hug from a friend. In encouragement that was perfect for today, even if it is forgotten by tomorrow. In washing the dishes today, even though they will be dirty again tonight.
Just because we will need each of these things again tomorrow doesn’t mean they were less life-giving today.
Are You Content With the Daily Bread God is Providing for You?
Like the daily bread that appeared like dew and was spoiled by night, God offers us a challenge both smaller and harder than dreams of grandeur: to be content with daily bread. To feed those who rely on us—be they congregants, readers, or children—with the nourishment they need for today and trust God to provide for tomorrow.
What about you? Where is God feeding you, nourishing you, through daily bread? How can you awaken to the small gifts—and the trust and surrender they require? How can you feed those around you with daily bread, today?
Image Credit: ©Getty/monkeybusinessimages
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine McNiel is a writer and speaker who seeks to open eyes to God’s creative, redemptive work in each day—while caring for three kids, two jobs, and one enormous garden. Catherine's first book, Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline, was an ECPA finalist for New Author. Her second book is All Shall be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in His Messy, Abundant World. She’s on the lookout for wisdom, beauty, and iced coffee.