It’s been a while since I last wrote, and, as you can imagine, a lot has happened. We had another team this past week, a great group from Pennsylvania. They ran a VBS program for the kids in the villages, which was awesome. The kids had so much fun! The team also built a house for a family and painted another house for a young mother. They really put all of their energy into their tasks and did a great job. Friday they went to a nice beach that is about 3 hours south of our house. I was able to tag along this time, with all the kids of the house. The beach, Placencia, is absolutely gorgeous, and the ocean water is warm (something I’m not used to!).
We left the beach somewhere around 5:00pm and got home after 8:00. It was a long ride home but not many people slept. Most of them played a game in the back of the bus called Mafia, while the rest of us sat up front talking. I got to know quite a few of the team members very well, and they were each blessings to me. Hopefully we’ll run into each other again.
Though this past week was amazing and fun and full of joy, it was also very difficult. Spiritually there is a lot going on. God has been putting desires in my heart–ones that I know are from Him, because there’s no way my flesh could crave such things. And yet He also asks for complete surrender. It’s taken me a long while to understand this, and I don’t think I’ve mastered it yet. How do these two things fit? God gives you deep desires, ones that you know are from Him, and then He asks you to surrender them. To give them back to Him and be willing to live without them. What?
Psalm 37:3-5 says, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.”
Have you ever read Genesis 22? If you haven’t, or need to be reminded of it, go read it now and then finish reading this post. Really, go do it. You could even use biblegateway.com.
Can you imagine? God gave Abraham a son–Isaac was the son of the promise. The Lord had promised to give Abraham a son through whom He would create nations. So Abraham waited years and years for this son, for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Finally, after 25 years, God gave Isaac to Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Finally, Abraham could see the promise coming to fruition. He had the son, and he could imagine the nations that would be built out of his family. And then… God asked him to sacrifice his son. “Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you'” (Genesis 22:2).
Sacrifice his son?! Sacrifices, before Jesus’ final sacrifice, included killing, binding, and burning an animal on an altar. This was how God commanded His people to worship Him, before Jesus came and made a new way to the Father. Think about that: God asked Abraham to bind his only son with ropes, put him on a wooden altar, and kill him as a sacrifice.
What about the promise God had given? Isaac was to bear children and make nations! Abraham had waited 25 years for his son, and he loved him with all of his heart. Why on earth would God ask Abraham to do such a thing? Though it didn’t make any sense, Abraham was obedient. He took Isaac, bound him, and was about to kill him when the Lord stopped him and said, “‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me'” (vs. 12).
God was testing Abraham, to see the depth of his devotion. Would Abraham be so committed to the Lord that he would literally do anything He asked? Or would he see the request as completely unreasonable, and not be able to trust that God had a plan and knew exactly what He was doing? Because Abraham was obedient and trusted the Lord, God blessed him abundantly. The blessings were above and beyond anything Abraham could dream of. But he had to be stretched to the last possible point in order to get them.
God does give desires and promises and then ask us to give them back to Him. To surrender everything to Him and allow Him to lead and direct every minute of every day of every month of every year. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense at all. In my own life, there are two specific desires He’s given me. The emotions that come with them are intense and, at times, overpowering. So it was ridiculously hard when He asked me to give them up and be okay without them. Am I willing to let go, to lose all, when He asks me to do so?
It doesn’t always mean that He’ll strip away those desires and never bring them about. Go back to Psalm 37 above. He says that if I delight myself in Him, He WILL give me the desires of my heart. As I delight in Him, the desires of my heart are desires that He has put there. They’re not of my flesh. He tests us to see how willing we are and how devoted to Him we are. The tests allow Him to use us in even more ways, and He ALWAYS blesses us for being obedient. Always. It’s hard to come so close to the edge in surrendering to Him when you don’t know what’s on the other side. It feels as though once you let go you’ll fall and never get back up. It hurts. It’s dying to self, which is excruciating.
But the joy that comes with being obedient to Christ? Wow. The peace? It surpasses all understanding. And to know that you’ve pleased your Father… that’s priceless. He desires to give us good things, as a father with his son (Matthew 7:11). His love is greater than anything we could ever fathom. What a mighty, wonderful God!