I remember reading Corrie Ten Boom speaking of how she learnt about God’s daily provision as she suffered in a concentration camp; she remembered her dad teaching her the lesson. He used to say to her as a child: ‘when we get on a train, at what point do I give you your ticket?’. Corrie would reply ‘just before we got on the train’. Her father would respond: ‘That’s right, I gave it to you when you needed it and not before. So it is with God.’
This quote from the excellent book ‘Running Scared’ (by Ed Welch) makes a similar point.
We often say ‘God will provide’. These words spell that out a bit more.
“Among my assorted fears and anxieties is the fear of suffocation, especially through drowning…What does tomorrow’s manna, future grace, have to do with such fears? It doesn’t say that I will be spared suffocation. What it it says is that, if I am called to death by asphyxiation, I will have grace when that time comes. What does that mean? I don’t know. I can’t imagine such grace. I can’t imagine anything that would make drowning tolerable. And that is exactly what we should expect: At this moment I don’t have grace to drown because I am not drowning! Of course I will worry if I try to envision a drowning scenario. I will project the grace I have received for today onto tomorrow, not comprehending that I will receive grace as needed tomorrow.
We have to go slowly on this one because it is so essential in our battle with worry and fear. Let’s say that you are taking a class, and the first thing the instructor does is hand out a test. As you scan it, you know nothing. Little signs and symbols, words you have never seen – your anxiety level rises with each question. You have failed the class before it has begun!
Then the teacher interrupts, “Did I tell you that this will be your final exam? You don’t have to take this now, and you don’t know any of this now, but trust me. By the time the class is over you will actually know this. You’ll be amazed at how well prepared you will be.”
Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Nothing has really changed. There will be a final exam at the end of the course, and you would fail it if you took it now, but you have no worries. When the time comes to take the test, you will have received the grace you need to do well.
Are you worried about the future? You are looking at tomorrow as if it was a final exam adn you haven’t yet taken the class. Of course you panic at the thought. But you haven’t considered that you will go through the class before you have to take the final. You will be given all the grace you need when you need it.
What form might that grace take? Be careful here. When we try to imagine grace in some future situations, we might still be resting in ourselves. We want specific confirmation that there will be grace and we want to calm ourselves not by trusting in the Gracious One but in seeing the future. If I am called to drown, I don’t know what grace I will receive. Having never had it, I can’t imagine it, and since God gives much more than we ask my prediction no doubt would fall far short. It is enough to know that I will receive grace. I will know the presence of the Spirit and I will die, or be rescued, in a way that pleases the Lord.”
(Running Scared, p.144-145)