Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22
Before I start, I want to tell you that I have been angry and grumbling a lot lately and not really knowing why. So, I asked God to show me. These verses and the quote by Lewis, I believe, are His answer.
The Hebrew word translated “cares” here is yehab (יְהָב). This is the only place it is used in the Bible. Surprisingly, it doesn’t mean worries or anxiety, it means “what is given, a lot [as in a portion], a burden.” So, this verse could say, “cast what God has given you, your lot in life, back on Him and He will sustain you.”
The word translated “sustain” is another amazing word. It is kul (כּוּל) and, at its root, it means “to keep in” to measure, contain. It means (be able to, or can) abide, bear, comprehend, feed, forbear, guide, nourish, be present, make provision, receive, sustain, provide sustenance.
He sustains us; He provides sustenance. He knows and is able to bear my lot or portion. The problem comes when what He has given is not what I expected or feel entitled to. The Israelites following Moses out of Egypt felt they were being misused by God for this reason.
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6
“This manna” was not what they expected or felt entitled to or felt they were promised. C.S. Lewis put it very well in a fictional conversation between demons training to tempt and derail the faith of humans:
“Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered.” — Screwtape Letters, XXI, C.S. Lewis
“The more claims on life.” Ooo, ow, ouch! That is really peeling off the hard scab on my heart to clean out the pus of sin. Like me, the grumbling Israelites in the desert felt they were being misused. They felt their claims and entitlement. “Moses, I thought this was supposed to be a better life than in Egypt. I thought this was supposed to be some great salvation! And here we are wandering around in the life-sucking heat with just this manna to eat!”
My claims are not meat and fish and cucumbers and leeks. My claims are more based on my conception of a perfect life. I hear myself grumbling like them. “I don’t want this lot. This is not what I signed up for. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. If only I had never started out on this hard, hot, rocky desert journey, where all I have to eat is this manna!”
But, oh, do you hear the hard slap in the Face of God? For who is the manna?
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:26, 43-51
And see, Jesus points here to another thing. God has a BIG plan. It is way bigger than my ability to comprehend, much bigger than my short time here on earth. He is always setting His face toward the Cross. He is always one-track focused on reconciling people to himself. He is always painting a huge canvas, writing this wonderful story, portraying the bread given for the life of the world.
Those people crossing the Red Sea and wandering in the desert, eating the manna provided there, were part of that canvas. And I’m seeing that in God’s amazing grace, my failures and wanderings and returnings are part of it too. My portion is this wispy little brush stroke over here on the edge. You can hardly see it close up. But when you stand back I hope, that in His strength and grace, it contributes my tiny portion to the salvation story picture.
But it seems that my claims and assumptions blind me to my true portion, to what God is really like and what He is after. Like Adam and Eve I listen to the “what ifs.” Did God really say? What if He just doesn’t want you to have all you deserve? Like the man who was entrusted with the one bag of gold, I assume the worst of God.
Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ Matthew 25:24-25
Two bad assumptions about God: that God had given a bad lot, that God is “hard” and requiring more than the man was able to bear. That man received what he expected. But what did the master say to the two men who received gladly, and served with, the portion they were given? “Enter into the joy of your master.”
I think this lot or portion we have been given is only a heavy burden if we resist it or try to carry it ourselves. We were never meant to carry it, but to cast it back on His broad shoulders.
And I begin to see that if God contains my lot, then my lot is in God – that my lot is God. The manna from heaven.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
Those who cling to their lives will give up true life. But those who let go of their lives for my sake and surrender it all to me will discover true life! (TPT)
But here is the bread that comes down from heaven …
Image, detail from painting by Jack Bair