At different points in our lives we realize that we have taken back something from God that used to be entirely dedicated to Him. What used to be so easy to trust Him with we suddenly realize that we have fear to give back to Him. Suddenly we wonder if God really is good. We wonder if we would give this thing that we love so much to God, would He give it back to us? It came into our lives like a long-awaited promise. Why would God ask for us to sacrifice the blessing He gave? It seems so contrary to His plan.
As my heart was breaking, I realized that I am not the only one who has struggled with this. God brought to mind the story of Abraham and Isaac. Talk about something that doesn’t make sense. Abraham was so faithful to God, leaving his country to follow God’s leading. In each circumstance, even though he clearly struggled to trust God with his family, he was faithful and God rewarded, honored, and protected what was important to him. Then God answered Abraham’s prayer to have a son, even though Abraham was 100 years old and his wife 90. Several years later, after God gave him a son and life was wonderful, God ordered something heart-wrenching. “Offer your son Isaac, the one you love, as a burnt offering to me.” I can’t even begin to imagine how Abraham felt in that moment.
What is really interesting to me is that in Genesis 22 as the Bible tells this story, it mentions nothing about how Abraham felt. It only states the facts of the situation. God speaks and Abraham gets up in the morning, prepares his things and leaves. Isaac is full of questions, because it doesn’t make sense to leave for a sacrifice without a lamb. Abraham simply tells him, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering.” He ties Isaac up, lifts the knife to the sky, fully prepared to bring it down. Then the angel stops him, but that’s not the important part. The part that I want to know is what was going on in Abraham’s heart in that moment, but the Bible doesn’t tell us that. Did Abraham believe that God would intervene and give him back his son, or did he think that he would really have to kill his son? Or did he dare believe anything? Did he simply obey without question, trusting that God knew what He was doing?
I find myself getting angry that the Bible doesn’t answer these questions for me. Then I wonder why it doesn’t. Maybe that isn’t the important part after all. Maybe the important part is that Abraham obeyed, despite his questions and his breaking heart. Maybe he obeyed despite the doubts that he struggled to let go of. So what is faith then? I always thought that faith meant that I solidly trusted without question, but if that were the case, there would be no need for a test. The Bible says that God tested Abraham’s faith. He wasn’t testing Abraham’s feelings, because clearly He knew how Abraham felt. God knows that feelings and emotions are unreliable and subject to change at a moment’s notice. They don’t clearly show what is in a person’s heart. He was testing Abraham’s decision. Would Abraham choose to obey when asked to destroy the only thing that mattered to him? Only Abraham could make that decision. Who knows how many times he went back and forth in his resolve or the things he screamed at God in the night when no one but the goats seemed to be listening. As God waited expectantly, Abraham wrestled excruciatingly.
However, like the faith chapter in Hebrews 11 illustrates, there are many in the history of God’s story who were faithful despite impossible circumstances. It wasn’t their feelings they were rewarded and recognized for, but their actions. Abraham is only one of these examples. I am one of them too, if I would choose to be. Who knows how many times that God will have to test my heart, asking me to give back to Him the blessing that He gave to me. However, each time I must move forward in obedience, ready to give it to Him, knowing that there is a chance that He might not give it back. And though everything inside of me screams the question, “God, are you really good?” I must remember that it is not mine to decide or perceive. The truth remains. He is good. And though everything inside of me screams the question, “God, how can this be for MY good?” I must remember that I am not a reliable judge of what is good and what is not. Surely the gold does not perceive the fire as good when it is being consumed by the flames. However, the beauty that is revealed in the end says it all.
I want the kind of faith that Abraham had. Someday if someone writes my story, I want my feelings about the situation to not even be relevant, just like in the account of Abraham. I want the actions of my obedience to tell it all. The Bible says, “…Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith (Genesis 15:6).” I will never stop being human, nor will I cease to struggle with human emotions. However, the good news is that God will never stop being God, nor will He cease to be good. It doesn’t matter the circumstance or the sacrifice that I must make. It doesn’t matter if I get the thing that I am giving to Him back. The only thing that matters is that I am obedient. What matters is that my deepest desire is Him.
Lord, I want that kind of faith. “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You (Psalm 51:10, 12).”