I don’t know about you, but food shortages and rising grocery prices make my heart and pocketbook quake. Oh, the joys of feeding a family of nine plus one! What a blessing that my four-legged baby doesn’t eat much. When loaves of bread started disappearing from shelves, we stored away yeast, boxes of cornmeal, and pounds of King Arthur’s flour. And after our eyes met over the last priceless slice of Oscar Mayer bacon, Hubby and I stocked our refrigerators and freezers.
So, you can imagine my…let’s call it “dismay”…when Hubby walked into the garage and found someone had left the door open to the deep freezer. For about thirty hours, by our calculations. Pounds of raw pizza dough, ground beef, flank steak, chicken wings…all thawed. Once I closed my mouth and put away my pointing finger, we refroze the dough and planned our week’s menu to make use of the meat. Believe me, Alexander wasn’t the only who had a “terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.”
Having “extra.” Keeping our storehouses and medicine cabinets full reassures me that I can provide for my peeps, even if it’s an emergency bag of potato chips, a bowl of ramen, or some pork chops. Even though I know Hubby could make a meal out of mayonnaise, squash, and ice if he was pressed, my worst-case-scenario, be-prepared mindset served us well in July when we were all sick and unable to drive anywhere or see anyone.
But we have concerns beyond the temporary, physical issues (supposedly) within my control. We must answer the calls of the heart and spirit. Eternal matters. I can’t satisfy these needs with a spare peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Band-Aid.
What provides me a measure of true peace in these turbulent times? Who provides real answers in the unknown? Where do I go when I’m afraid?
Again, I reach into my storehouse: the Word.
In Genesis 41, the pharaoh recounted his dreams of the seven fat cows and seven lean cows and the seven fat heads of grain and the seven blighted heads. Joseph explained that the healthy cows and the swollen grain represented a season of abundance, seven years when Egypt would experience great prosperity. Following that seven-year period, a famine would besiege Egypt and the surrounding land, and its severity would completely erase even the memory of the plentiful years.
That’s where Joseph came in. He was to lead supervisors and “collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years…[and] gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses.” (Genesis 41:34-36 NLT)
We, too, have enjoyed good years, times of plenty, moments of rejoicing, seasons of thanksgiving and exuberant praise. Births, fruitfulness, answered prayer, prosperity, days when I could run and jump without wincing or limping, lots of laughter and singing. I could fry bacon to my heart’s content.
And we’ve also had seasons of skinny cows and blighted wheat.
Rejection, loneliness, betrayal. A fire. Dire diagnoses. The two-year relocation-that-wouldn’t-quit. Flooding and storms. Lawsuits. Quarantine and COVID-19. Our parents’ surgeries and setbacks. Writing frustrations, career changes. Fear and anxiety. Miscarriages. Financial loss. The unknown, the unexpected, the unanticipated…the “still to come.”
In these times of famine, I’ve felt like the widow of Zarephath in 1 King 17:12 when she told the prophet Elijah, “As surely as the Lord your God lives…I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
Yet, we haven’t died.
Joseph was told to “Store [the food] away, and guard it so there will be enough food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.” And so he did. When the land suffered, people came to Egypt for food, for life.
During my lean, dry seasons, I hunger for true nourishment. Not for devotionals, sermons, or podcasts. For God. When I face the unknown, my faith in the God I know forces me to take one shuddering breath at a time. To walk in trust and obedience. I reach into my storehouse and withdraw a measure of joy and hope—what I built up during the fat years—to carry me. To remind me of God’s steadfast goodness and love when I’m in danger of losing the “memory of the plentiful years.”
Yet a spiritual drought also occurs in times of fatness, or abundance. When all my physical needs are met, and I have a smile on my face. On date nights, while eating pizza with the family, or surfing social media. Even then, my spirit-woman thirsts for His wisdom, mercy, and grace. And it’s especially then I can build up reserves to use in my time of need.
At times, I don’t have “extra.” I have just enough faith to keep my own peeps and me on our feet—or to cover us, huddled together on the sofa. Other days, I’m Joseph, reaching into my supply to provide encouragement and support for myself and others.
“And Elijah said to her, ‘Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’
“So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.” (1 Kings 17:13-16)