1 The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.” (Leviticus 25:1–7 ESV)
It’s one thing to trust God when your own hands are busy working — busy building and creating and growing the things that will sustain you. That’s easy. When hands can make or grow all you need, when work is well-rewarded, it’s not hard to trust in God’s goodness and God’s provision.
Because … The Lord helps those who help themselves.
But it is an entirely different thing to trust God when hands are empty and idle, when there is no work, when the land is barren and dry. When nothing grows. When no one pays for the things you can create.
Trust God if you dare. See if the Lord helps those who cannot help themselves.
There have been times in my life — it seems most of the last few years, actually — when Jennifer and I have been utterly dependent on the goodwill of strangers, on manna from heaven, to survive. Because my hands cannot do the work that will care for us, that will provide for us, because no one is interested in what I have to give or what I can provide. It is humiliating, to hear, seemingly over and over again, “you are of no value, your life has no worth here, and the story you tell is not a story we want to hear.” I do not understand a world that tells me this.
And yet it does.
Somehow, we have been provided for. God has fed us. Housed us. Sent us to places where the things Jennifer and I do — the people we are — are valued. Not with showers of cash, but enough to get through tomorrow. And we have been loved. So very loved.
It’s easy to trust God when your own hard work is the means of God’s provision. But it’s hard to trust God when you cannot work. Or are not allowed to. Or the work you can do … is simply not valued.
God has told Israel here — trust me, trust me enough to let your land go fallow every seventh year. Resting isn’t just about honoring the rhythm of God’s work, and letting that rhythm shape our lives as individuals and as people of God. It’s also about trusting God. Trusting here that the God who created will also be the God who provides. That what we do with hands, whether we earn our keep or worship with praise, is not, in the end, how we are provided for.
We truly do not earn our own keep.
I envy people for whom life seems easy. People whose work is amply rewarded. Who find acceptance and belonging without struggle. Who don’t fail at every damn thing they do. I wish my life was like that. I wish I knew how to have a life like that. I’m tired of struggling for little, tired of wandering, tired of worrying whether bills will ever be paid because I cannot seem to find anyone anywhere willing to value me and my gifts enough to pay me for any of the things I am good at doing.
I want to find the help of God in the help I can give myself. I really do.
But as Israel wandered the wilderness, helpless and vulnerable, God fed Israel. All Israel had to was gather its portion in the morning. Hands fit not for honest toil, but only to pick off the ground the mercy of God. I suspect as God settled Israel in its promise, he wanted to remind Israel how dependent his people were on his provision. Do no work in the seventh year, and remember who provides for you. Remember who blesses you.
Trust. And remember whose you really are.