I don’t want to be like the widow of Zarephath.
I do, however, love her story in the Bible. She’s the widow in 1 Kings 17 who had just enough oil and flour for the day but no more. And she never knew if she’d have what she needed for tomorrow. If God didn’t provide for her each day, she would die of starvation. She had no resources of her own, no cushion to fall back on, no way to see the future. But this widow had God. And God is enough.
Her story is a beautiful picture of dependence on God. A beautiful example of how God provides for us. A beautiful illustration of trusting Him for our daily needs.
Beautiful, that is, for others. I love watching God work in other people’s lives that way, but I’d prefer to live my own life differently. I don’t like living with scarcity. I don’t like having just enough to meet my needs. I don’t like being dependent. It makes me feel vulnerable.
But in the last decade, my life has been characterized by dependency. Dependent on my friends, dependent on family, dependent on God. With post-polio syndrome, I don’t know how much strength I will have for tomorrow. The doctors say my energy is like money in a bank. I can make withdrawals but no deposits. When it runs out, there is no more. Since I have no idea how much reserve is left, I must trust God to provide the strength I need each day.
As a result, several friends have been praying that my strength would be like the widow of Zarephath’s oil and flour. That there will always be enough. That I will have no lack. That my strength will never run out.
What a reassuring picture for my future. Utter dependence on God. Seeing Him provide for my needs. Trusting Him when I cannot see.
But in my economy, I want a full oil flask and an overflowing flour container. I want to see how and when God will provide for my needs. I want a guarantee that I can independently verify.
That’s because I’d rather depend on myself than on God. To be honest, I often trust my own resources more than I trust Him. Though I love God and want to obey Him, trusting Him can be frightening. It’s easier when the future looks certain. I prefer knowing that God can take care of all of my needs, but never having to depend solely on Him. It feels much safer that way.
I like using God as my back-up plan. Being independent, making my own plans, not leaving things undone. And then if something unforeseen happens, He can step in.
But I know that God has something better in mind.
Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean we don’t plan or want God’s blessings in this life. But our sense of security and circumstantial satisfaction could be keeping us from a deeper walk with God. It’s wise to save money so that we have enough to retire. But facing retirement with little savings may force us to depend on God in ways that a large bank account never would. It’s wonderful to have great health and never go to the doctor. But being ill and wondering how we will make it through each day may cause us to pray more earnestly. It’s a joy to have a house full of loving obedient children. But we may be drawn deeper into the heart of God when we seek Him with infertility or wayward, rebellious children.
Charles Spurgeon says, “There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health… It is a good thing to be without a trouble; but it is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it.”
It is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it. That’s because dependence is always better than self-sufficiency in the Kingdom. Dependence yields fruit in our lives.
Spurgeon also says, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Anything that makes me dependent on God is a good thing. The best thing perhaps.
This is, of course, profoundly biblical. The children of Israel were given manna every day. They couldn’t provide for themselves. They had to depend on God and He always provided. Jesus underscored the importance of day-by-day dependence when He taught us to pray saying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” When we have no resources of our own, God’s power is most evident in our lives. As the Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
The story of the widow of Zarepheth troubles me because I am a sinner. Because I don’t want to be dependent on God for my every breath. I want to be self-sufficient, and depend on God when my self-sufficiency doesn’t work out.
But the truth is, I am dependent on God for my every breath. So are you. Like the widow of Zarepheth, none of us really knows whether we will have the resources we need for tomorrow. So our sense of independence from God is only an illusion.
My fellowship with God is the sweetest when I rely on Him for everything because I cannot see the path in front of me. Having all of my needs met in abundance is a good thing. But it is a far better thing to depend on God for my daily bread, looking to Him because I have no options of my own.
I wouldn’t choose to be like the widow of Zarephath. I wouldn’t choose dependence over independence. I wouldn’t choose scarcity over abundance. But I have found them all to be corners of blessing. My places of famine and desolation have become the places where I see God the most clearly. Not only does He meet my every need but wondrously, breathtakingly, He fills me with Himself.
And, miraculously, I am learning to be grateful for every wave that casts me on the Rock of Ages.
photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar