Embedded in many of Paul’s letters are messages left, as it were, in tiny crystal containers, almost hidden in the shadows of the eternal doctrines that fill Paul’s epistles.
For example, in Philippians 4, Paul encourages the saints to “stand fast in the Lord” and to be “in the same mind of the Lord,” and to “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil 4:1,4). But in the midst of this counsel to be Christ-like. Paul teaches a lesson we might miss if we are not watching. He suggests an approach to life that will help us make our way through the minefields of mortality and enable us to partake of “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” Paul suggests an attitude that will “keep [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
“Be careful for nothing” (4:6) Paul writes. Footnote 6a suggests this alternate Greek translation: “Don’t be unduly concerned about anything.” Many translations render this phrase as “do not be anxious about anything.” When the challenges of our lives gather around us, and when worry threatens to wash over us and sink us in despair, we would do well to remember this counsel: “Be careful for nothing.” If we are willing to look, we will find manna from heaven on the ground again in the morning. There is no reason to be unduly concerned.
Remembering the Daily Blessings
My daughter came to me for a blessing several years ago at a family reunion. Her husband had not had full-time work for eighteen months. They had six children, two cars, a mortgage, and no steady income. Her anxiety about the future made it difficult for her to deal with the day-to-day challenges of motherhood and discipleship, and her preoccupation with the blessings she was sure her family needed was making it difficult for her to recognize the blessings they were constantly receiving.
The Lord pointed that out in her blessing, with a message that was surprising to me and startling to her. Words of that priesthood blessing reminded her that in eighteen months without full-time employment, her family had never missed a house payment or a car payment or a meal. The manna had been there, regularly, waiting to be gathered and carried to the dinner table. Somehow, in each hour of need, the help had come. We both seemed to hear the Lord saying, Be careful for nothing. Don’t be unduly concerned about anything. Until you arrive at the promised land, you will find your manna waiting every morning
This principle made its way into my heart in another way that same week. I had been praying continuously with my wife and many others for another son and his wife to have the blessings of parenthood in one way or another. I lay in bed one night and wondered if the Lord was tired of hearing that same repetitive request. I felt like I had to keep asking, but I also had to acknowledge that in spite of four years of daily prayers, the blessing had not been granted. “Will the Lord act,” I thought, “and if so, when?” After enough years of waiting and worrying, it was difficult not to wonder if things would ever change.
But our Father was listening and making His preparations. While we were thinking, “What is the reason for all this delay?” God might have been saying, Be careful for nothing. Don’t be unduly concerned. I am in control. Be patient, and let me work this out for the best good of several of my children. We needed to continue to appeal, but without worry and undue concern.
My son and his wife have four children now, the first of which came by way of adoption proceedings that began the week of that blessing to my daughter. The Lord knew what was coming. He had “looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made . . .” We could trust him because He “knoweth all things, for all things are present before [His] eyes” (D&C 38:1-2).
I had another thought while I was giving that blessing to my daughter, and we discussed it afterward. God gives quiet answers. I remember hearing a story about two children lost in the woods who prayed for an angel to come and show them the way home. Not long after the prayer, the family cow wandered by. They grabbed its tail and it led them back to the house. That is a quiet answer. And a wandering cow is much like manna. It will be there when we need it to bless us and show us the way.
While moments and hours distill the will of heaven upon us, we search the skies for angels. We want someone in shining clothes to burst through the veil and say, “Fear not,” while God is shaping our hearts and lives and saying, “Please don’t worry. Don’t be unduly concerned. Things are under control.”
Things Will Work Out
I continue to be amazed at the way things work out. And they do work out. Things do not often happen on our schedule. God has His own timetable, and we rarely get a peek at His planner. But things do work out. It would be a shame if we were to think that a prayer that has not yet been answered never will be answered. Even if God’s plans require two weeks or two years or twenty, He does respond to righteous requests, either in the way we want or in a better way.
And while we are anticipating the blessings we think we need, we must not ignore the ones we receive. We cannot cry for quail every morning while we gather our daily manna. Remember what happened with the Israelites in the wilderness:
“And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick; But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.” (Numbers 11:4-6).
We cannot cry for costly apparel when our clothes and shoes have nor worn out for forty years. Moses reminded Israel that their “raiment waxed not old upon [them], neither did [their] foot swell, these forty years” (Deuteronomy 8:4).
We must make our righteous requests to God. That is commanded. But perhaps we should remember, while we kneel and plead, that God always gets it right. Paul knew this: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11).