Manna: What Is It?

There in the desert [the whole Israelite community] complained to Moses and Aaron and said to them, “We wish that the Lord had killed us in Egypt…you have brought us out into this desert to starve us all to death.”

…in the morning there was dew all around the camp. When the dew evaporated, there was something thin and flaky on the surface of the desert. It was as delicate as frost. When the Israelites saw it, they didn’t know what it was and asked each other, “What is it?”

Moses said to them, “this is the food that the Lord has given you to eat…”

The people of Israel called the food manna. (Exodus 16:2-3; 13-15; 31 GNT)

The Hebrew equivalent for the word “manna” is “what is it?”

God provides. We are slow to understand. Like the Israelites, sometimes I’m so busy looking back at the “good old days” I miss what is right under my nose.

How often have I prayed and then forgotten to notice how my prayers were answered? I’ve begged for help with problems and failed to connect the outcome to God’s intervention—especially when help didn’t come the way I expected.

Some years ago, I embarked on a program of self-improvement. For the first time in my life, I exercised diligently, and formed a habit of running two miles a day. Then one day, just like that, a tractor-trailer hit my car. Hospitalized and facing months of rehabilitation, I felt demoralized.

“God’s timing is awful,” I thought. “My body is in good shape for the first time in my life, now I can barely walk. What a waste of all that exercise!”

I whined to my physical therapist who informed me, “If your muscles hadn’t been as toned as they were at the time of the accident, the damage to your body would have been much worse.”

“Oh.” A shiver ran down my aching spine.

As months of therapy yielded gradual improvement, I gratefully drew on the discipline acquired through my previous exercise regimen. God nourished me physically and emotionally throughout the process. The accident was a crash-course in perseverance and acceptance that paid off the following year, when I was diagnosed with MS. I began to see the manna. God didn’t zap me with the car accident. He allowed the circumstances to happen and worked through them to bring about ultimate good by developing my inner resources.

Health problems periodically left me homebound and isolated. Despite my fear of technology, loved ones dragged me into the 21st century. My nephew convinced me to take his old modem. My brother-in-law volunteered to hook up my computer.

Although I’ve loved writing ever since I learned to form words with a pencil, I gave it up in high school because I lacked confidence. Thanks to the Internet I had been so reluctant to learn about, I eventually located a writers group in my town and began attending meetings.

The following year I was let go from my job, there had been no warning. One morning my supervisor announced it was my last day. I knew my job performance had been more than satisfactory. It was not my immediate supervisor who wanted me gone; it was the owner –the same owner whose erratic mood swings made me nervous and had brought a colleague to tears. Although I’d been miserable there, a strong work ethic and fear of change had kept me from leaving on my own. Still, it hurt to be let go. Stunned, I drove home trying to make sense of it.

“God has a plan for you.”

“Something better will turn up.”

I heard these words from friends and family. I said them myself…but I didn’t believe them.

Months dragged on. I searched diligently but unsuccessfully for another job. With nothing else to do, I spent more time writing. I submitted and sold a few articles and eventually signed a book contract with a national publisher. My first book has just been released.

Manna nurtured me once again. The devastating job loss not only freed me from an uncomfortable position but also created the opportunity for me to pursue my heart’s desire. Evidently, God listened to my heart and answered a prayer I don’t even remember speaking.

The Israelites noticed the flakes of manna and immediately asked “What is it?”

It takes me longer, but I’m learning to notice and ask too.

“What is it? A painful accident?”

“Yes, but it is just what you need to grow.”

“A technological luxury?”

“Maybe, but it is also a tool to help with My plan for you.”

“A job loss?”

“Yes, but I have something better in mind for you.”

Manna. What is it? It is the grace of God.

Barbara Hosbach is an author,speaker,and RCIA retreat facilitator, whose articles have appeared in St. Anthony Messenger magazine, the Liguorian, My Daily Visitor, and on the web at Today's Catholic Woman. Her first book, Fools, Liars, Cheaters & Other Bible Heroes, has just been released. Published by Franciscan Media, the book explores the stories of 28 Biblical figures: men and women facing a variety of circumstances with very different strengths and weaknesses--just like us.