I stared at the empty shelves in disbelief. Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a shopper quite as effectively as the sight of empty store shelves. Immediately, I began experiencing flashbacks. (maybe it was PTSS – post traumatic shopping syndrome) Afterall, it wasn’t that long ago that we all went through the infamous toilet paper shortage of 2020. We have currently been experiencing a baby formula shortage among others, which is attributed to the closing of a production facility and to problems with the supply chain. And now this, shelves that are usually full of peanut butter, are at present, empty.
This one caught me by surprise, but maybe I just hadn’t been paying attention? Made me wonder, what’s next? What should I be stocking up on? How long will it be before I can again purchase peanut butter? Is there an underground market for peanut butter? This is probably how people become hoarders – they are driven to it by fear and panic.
I was feeling a little bit of both those emotions myself, actually, as I stood in front of the now empty shelves, not knowing when they would again be full. It’s the not knowing, the uncertainty that produces the fear, I think. As I contemplate a change in my shopping habits (when I realize I am out of or almost out of something, is when I think to put it on the list to buy) I can’t get the story of the rich man with a good crop out of my mind. You know the one, he had such a good crop that he had no place to store his excess grain. So he tore down his barns and built bigger ones in order to store all his accumulated wealth. He had enough laid up for many years. But,
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21)
Other words also come to mind as I fight the fear that an empty shelf produces in me. Jesus’s words to His disciples turn my focus from empty shelves to a future full of God’s goodness.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
This reminds me of the daily manna the Israelites received in the desert each morning – it could not be stored up. If they attempted to do this, the manna became rotten real fast, foul smelling with maggots. God gave them fresh manna every morning. They had no need to store it up and they were expressly told not to, but those who did found out quickly what happens to stored up, excess manna.
“However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” (Exodus 16:20)
The manna is kind of like our earthly treasures, “where moth and rust (or maggots) destroy, and thieves break in and steal.” Nothing is really all that secure here, but Jesus told His disciples not to worry. Jesus pointed out how God clothes the flowers so beautifully and feeds the birds, who don’t “sow or reap or store away in barns.” Then Jesus tells them,
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)
Good advice, but can I do it? Panic is worry on steroids and that’s what I experience with the empty shelves and the shortages and the rumors of shortages to come. Our news is full of dire predictions every day and Jesus says not to worry? How can I not worry? Well, turns out there is something I can do. I find the very clear instructions in Philippians 4:6-7, which says –
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present my requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.”
Peace is definitely preferable to panic and fear. And God’s peace is a unique gift that doesn’t depend on my earthly circumstances. The store shelves don’t have to be full for me to receive God’s peace. Jesus said to His followers,
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Even though my circumstances in this world are constantly changing and uncertain, I do not need to live in fear and panic mode, or even in a state of constant worry every time there is a new shortage of yet another item. Shortages and empty shelves may become more common in the days ahead. However, I will determine to say along with Habakkuk –
“Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:16-19)
It is God, from whom all blessings flow, as the doxology says. Psalm 145 reminds me of this, I need not fear shortages and empty shelves.
“The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:14-16)
thank You, Heavenly Father, for Your infinite supply of everything good – mercy, grace, forgiveness, peace, hope, joy, comfort, healing, streams of living water in the desert, manna new every morning – great is Your faithfulness –
sincerely, Grace Day