What do we do when faced with the reality that we might lose the one thing we desire the most? How we choose to view God at these pivotal “about to lose everything” moments has the power to change the course of history.
Abraham had waited over 20 years for his promise from God to come to pass: Your wife Sarah will give birth to a son in old age, and your offspring will form a mighty nation that God will ultimately use to save the entire earth.
The promise had seemed impossible, and many times, in his inability to comprehend God’s power, Abraham had tried to make it happen in his own way. At long last, his beloved son had arrived. What had seemed impossible was now entirely real, and Abraham’s joy must’ve been so full and complete.
And then one day, God called out, “Abraham!”
“Here I am!” Abraham responded.
“Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
I wonder how much Abraham’s heart sank when he heard this command. When God first called Abraham, he was living as a pagan. God had uprooted him from the land in which he was living, changed his name, and made him a promise that changed the course of his life. Abraham had experienced the richness of divine joy that only God can bestow. He had experienced a higher love and fullness that most can only imagine. But after all these years, after all the waiting and wondering if God would come through, after the relief that the promise had been fulfilled…Abraham’s joy must’ve come crashing down as he realized what God was asking him to do next.
But now, the same Abraham who once slept with his servant girl in order to manipulate the promise of God no longer offered up any complaining or grumbling. We read of no arguing with God, compromising, or begging. Abraham packed his things and set off early the next morning to obey his father’s command.
Spoiler alert: Abraham doesn’t actually have to sacrifice Isaac in the end. God provided an animal sacrifice for him at the very last moment. But that’s just it: God waited until just before Abraham was about to plunge the knife into the thing he wanted more than anything else. You might ask why it wasn’t enough for God to know that Abraham was willing. If God is all-knowing, certainly he must have already known what Abraham would do. Why did he need him to actually go through all of the motions of sacrifice before he stopped him?
Abraham might not have actually killed Isaac, but he did sacrifice him that day. When he made the decision to obey, in his heart he had let go of his son. He could’ve argued with God, “Why would you take him away from me? Aren’t you the one who made this promise? Aren’t you the one who said that my descendants would be too numerous to count? Why do you need me to kill my one and only son, the one that you made me wait years and years for? Do you really love me?”
Abraham’s obedience did not prove anything to God. The miracle in Abraham’s life was not only about his son—it was an internal transformation that destroyed the fear and the doubt that Abraham once harbored toward God. His decision to obey caused the final piece to fall into place, and now Abraham’s entire heart belonged to God. In his willingness to sacrifice his one and only son, Abraham now reflected God’s image perfectly.
When God asks you to give up that goal you’ve been working toward for years and years, the promise that you hold dear, the treasured possession that you deeply love, it’s easy to question him or try to figure out if he’s going to give it back. But when you come to that moment, you aren’t supposed to know if God is really going to give you what you want.
In this time of testing, don’t seek to know the answer to your question. Instead, sit in your Father’s lap and thank him that if he is the only thing you’ll ever have, then you have everything you could ever need.