Not a great word, right?
Most of us prefer reading christian blogs about how God wants to bless us and make us feel good. He does love us immensely, and he does want to bless us (I am living proof of this!), BUT, sometimes he leads us into seasons of sacrifice. That’s where I am right now, and I’m not entirely sure if I like it.
Nevertheless, I want to compare and contrast two Biblical characters who were called to sacrifice their treasures to the Lord, and see how I can learn from them.
The first is Abraham. In Genesis 22, God calls Abraham to sacrifice his most beloved treasure: his son. His miracle baby. The one he loves immensely. We know the end of this story, so we don’t think it’s so bad anymore. Abraham takes his son up the mountain, makes an alter, and then God stops him at the last minute. It was only a test, and Abraham passed. Yay for Abes.
The second is Hannah. In 1 Samuel 1 & 2, we read that Hannah makes a vow to the Lord: “if you give your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.” This doesn’t seem so bad in comparison, right? Yes, her son was also a miracle baby, and yes, she too had to give him up, but at least she wasn’t expected to kill him, right?
However, when it comes to our own seasons of sacrifice, we prefer to superimpose the story of Abraham over our lives, and ignore Hannah’s. Why? Because, although death is more severe than service to the Lord, Abraham didn’t actually have to go through with it. We’re quite happy to march our own sacrifices up the mountain when it’s based on the presumption that God will stop us at the last minute.
But what if he doesn’t stop you?
What about the times when we are called to be more like Hannah, and actually give up what we hold dear, permanently? Sometimes God gives us gifts and then asks us to give the gifts back to him. We don’t like it. We don’t understand it. But trust me, I’ve learnt the hard way, it’s better to just do it.
I am also reminded that Hannah didn’t drag her feet on her way to give up her darling boy. When she released Samuel back to the Lord, she did it with thanksgiving and praise. Remember, this would have been the hardest thing she had ever done in her life. Can you imagine that day? Saying goodbye? She would have travelled uphill, by foot, without her husband, with a bull, 22 litres of flour, some wine, and a young toddler. That in itself would have been a tough journey. Now add on the emotional baggage of saying goodbye and one suddenly realises what a tough woman Hannah really was. Then she sang a song of Praise.
How does one fulfil a vow like that and still bless the Lord?
Arguably, God makes us go through these seasons for our own benefit, and we usually end up better off in the long run (Hannah ended up having tonnes more kids, for example), but it’s hard to see this during that moment of sacrifice.
Will I forever remind him of what I did, when in actual fact I hardly had a choice in the matter? Will I become self-righteous and entitled? Will I presume that because I gave something back to the Lord, he is therefore obligated to give me something better in return? Will I pretend that I out-gave God?
Will I forget that he sacrificed his most beloved treasure – his one and only son – for me?