As a child, one of my favorite blessings of the Thanksgiving feast lasted well into the weekend – open-faced sandwiches made with leftover turkey, giblet gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Not to mention leftover eggnog and pumpkin pie!
As an adult, I have been known to put leftovers to good use in a frittata, stir-fry, soup, or must-go stew. Often these repurposed creations taste better than their original components, and the time saved in not having to prepare a meal from scratch is an added bonus.
When God gives us “leftovers,” they are always first-rate, and never second-best, often accompanied by unexpected blessings. Six days of the week, He provided a daily portion of manna, or bread from heaven, for the Israelites to eat as they traveled through the wilderness (Exodus 16).
If they gathered more to hoard for the next day, it would rot, except for the day before the Sabbath. On that day, God provided a double portion of manna, so that they could save what was left over to eat on the Sabbath without having to work to gather it. Unlike the other days, God preserved the extra portion pristine without allowing it to spoil. These leftovers provided a fresh meal for the Sabbath, which the Israelites could enjoy as a day of rest, as He had commanded (Exodus 20:8-11).
Even God’s table scraps are a supreme blessing, not to be undervalued in any way. The Caananite woman who begged Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter was rebuked, as His earthly ministry was primarily to Israel. He gave her an analogy, saying that it was not suitable for the children’s bread to be fed to the dogs, but she reminded Him that even dogs could eat stray crumbs that landed on the floor. He then rewarded her great faith by healing her daughter (Matthew 15:22-28).
Food leftovers notwithstanding, mostly I find myself thankful for leftovers of a different sort – those blessings that remain after a trial or crisis takes away some of what I hold most dear. When I moved to Florida from New York, the U-Haul carrying everything I owned was stolen, including antique furniture inherited from my aunt, my computer, TV, and stereo. I felt overwhelmed by the loss of these heirlooms and modern-day essentials, especially in the midst of upheaval from a long distance move, leaving family and friends, and starting a new position.
And yet, some weeks later, the police found the U-Haul abandoned in a parking lot, where evidently the thieves had been interrupted while transferring their loot to another vehicle. Every stick of furniture and all my appliances and electronics were missing, but packed boxes remained. Long after I had given up hope of recovering anything, it was like Christmas morning as I opened these boxes to find precious family photos, videos and memorabilia, and even silver, figurines and artwork that had been in my family for several generations.
While the big ticket items were lost, the “leftovers” that were found were truly irreplaceable. I knew these were a special blessing from God even though I had not yet been saved by asking His Son to be my Lord and Savior. I had not yet trusted in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), but I already believed that all good things come from God (James 1:17).
Although I did not yet know Scripture, I began to realize that God truly does work all things together for good (Romans 8:28), as the insurance settlement for the lost items paid for a fresh start in furnishing my new home as I began a new life.
Recently, we have suffered material loss in Hurricane Ian at our beach home, but I am thankful that no storm can take away the beauty of God’s sunrises and sunsets over the beach, stars shining over a moonlit sea, and even a full rainbow arching through the sky (Genesis 9:13-16), seeming to originate from our damaged home! These “leftovers” remind me of God’s grace in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), His mercy (Lamentations 3:22), protection, provision and infinite love (Philippians 4:19). I am even more grateful that none of our family or loved ones were injured or lost their homes in the hurricane.
Jesus is not only the Great Provider but a great steward of all He provides, and I believe He would have us to be likewise. When he fed a great multitude of 5,000 men and their families with only five loaves of bread and two small fish (John 6:1-15), everyone ate their fill, yet there were twelve large baskets of food left over! No doubt this helped feed the disciples on their journey, after a generous portion was given to the young boy who willingly donated his lunch to be used by the Master.
It reminds me of Baptist fellowships, where the hostess committee is always concerned that there will be enough food for all who attend to enjoy. Thanks to the generosity of church members, not only does everyone get to eat as much as they desire, but the leftovers are put to good use in making meals for shut-ins and homeless and feeding the visiting missionaries.
During a prolonged drought and famine, the prophet Elijah asked the widow to bake him a little cake using all of the pitiful amount of oil she had remaining. She did, and was rewarded with a cruse full of oil that never ran out until the drought had ended! Even better, God later used Elijah to revive her dead son (1 Kings 17).
We can’t outgive God. Whatever resource -- whether time, talent or treasure – we entrust to His service, He will bountifully return to us, beyond measure (Luke 6:38; Malachi 3:10-12), overflowing beyond the point that we can even hold onto it! I believe this is by His design, so that we become a channel through whom blessings flow to others.
These blessings may not be in their original form, and He may reward us in spiritual rather than tangible blessings, but we will never be disappointed. These “leftovers” represent God’s abundant provision for us according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19), answering our prayers exceedingly abundantly beyond whatever we could ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20).
As we who celebrate Thanksgiving praise God for all the gifts He has given us, may we also remember to thank Him for the leftovers He generously provides, and ask Him to empower us to be good stewards, using these for His glory!
© 2022 Laurie Collett