“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”
Job knew the sting the heart feels when God takes away what you love.
When God gives.
Then takes away.
Many of us face this pain in life.
The pain that remains when God takes away something you love.
I grew up with the tune of amazing grace in my head and the sounds of rustling Bible pages in my ear. God was my safe place, my love, my treasure.
Dancing with the Lord in love was enough.
Dwelling in His presence filled me up.
Then there came a day when something unexpected came along.
A gift from God.
A love from the Lord Himself. Something beautiful. Something miraculous.
A love that consumed me.
I had prayed.
I had waited.
God saw me all the while.
The Lord watched me as I gazed at another.
Dreamt of my treasure. Pined for my love. And couldn’t look away.
I felt the touch of the Lord’s hand as I danced with my fantasy.
My heart in His hands.
My tears in His eyes.
He kept dancing with me.
The Lord never left my side.
Years have come and gone. It still remains. And this love still stings. The one I never knew could exist finally came.
And God took him away.
God took away what I love.
For you it may be a person you lost, an ability taken, a opportunity ruined, a hope forsaken, or something else. Whatever it is, I know how deep the pain can sting. To lose what you love. And wonder if you’ll ever get it back.
Abraham also knew the sting the heart feels when God takes away what you love.
I’m finding many men and women in the Bible whom the Lord has both given to and then taken away from.
And honestly it confuses me.
It can be easy to question God’s goodness.
But I’m learning that God has a purpose in mind. And restoration rests it’s unfolding.
I’m finding healing in the scriptures narrating Abraham’s story of waiting on a promise then sacrificing it to the Lord.
So we are going to look at Abraham’s journey in the book of Genesis…
From receiving a promise from God to receiving the son, witnessing the birth of that son, and then walking the path of sacrificing this promised son to God. Abraham walks a difficult road with the Lord. In his story, I pray we see God more clearly. And with surrender, discover the reasons behind God’s initial choice to take away what we love. And His plan of redemption in the end.
We begin with Abraham.
Abraham was a great man of God. One of the fathers of our faith. A man who Hebrews lists in the hall of faith as one who believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness (Hebrews 11:8-12).
Abraham listened to the Lord.
Yielded to His voice.
Left his homeland.
Believed the Lord’s promise.
Abraham was called by God in Genesis 12 and chosen by God in Genesis 15 to be the father of many nations.
“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”
– Genesis 12:1-4
“And he [God] brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
– Genesis 15:5-6
Then we see God prove faithful to provide.
Abraham waited for years and years and then some more before receiving the Son he was promised.
“Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.” –Genesis 21:5
The promised son named Isaac enters the world, even amidst much heartache, frustration and confusion resulting from the waiting period God put Abraham through before receiving the promise. That in itself I will talk about in another post, with regards to how the waiting period depletes us of our strength and yet God remains faithful to us. But I digress.
After all of Abraham’s waiting and his wife Sarah’s waiting, God provides a son.
But years go by, and God is about to ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
Then takes away.
Why does God take away what we love?
In my mind I go back…
To the days when love consumed me, and still does…
Why does God take away what we love?
In my heart I smile brightly…
Of the pages written in my memory, it’s still there…
Sometimes after much patience to wait on God to receive a blessing we are called to lay that blessing down before the Lord in surrender.
To prove to God we love Him more.
To let our love be on offering unto God for His purpose not ours.
This is what God asks Abraham to do when has asks him to kill his son.
“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.” – Genesis 22:1
I love the heart of Abraham in this passage as he’s so willing and attentive to the voice of God. God calls upon him and immediately Abraham answers, “Here I am!” What if we answered God with the same humble spirit? Abraham was ready for what God would say, even in the unknown of awaiting God’s instruction.
“He [God] said, “Take 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 (emphasis mine)
God asks Abraham to sacrifice the son He promised him.
God’s going to take away what Abraham loves.
To me this seems cruel.
Why would God give a blessing only to take it away?
What kind of God is this?
God asks Abraham to sacrifice the very son that was promised to Him in Genesis 15 from the mouth of God.
It doesn’t make sense.
As we keep reading we see that God is teaching Abraham how to love him most while anointing the blessing and promise He had spoken over his life. But it comes through a very painful experience.
When God wants to bless us with something permanent in our lives, He often asks for surrender regarding the temporal provision before we see the permanent blessing.
Yet this can be one of the most difficult things to do because it’s natural to fear that we’ll never get it back.
When God takes away what we love, it doesn’t make sense at first.
I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve cried out to the Lord in agony over what God has both made me wait for, given, and then taken away. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt. To lose what you love. To have it come back again and again, yet lose him again and again. The deepest confusion I’ve wrestled with. The biggest temptation for doubt between me and the Lord. But through the Holy Spirit, God is providing trust in Him through the things I still don’t understand.
This is why I keep going back to the story of Abraham and Isaac.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be people, things, opportunities and so forth that we love deeply.
And sometimes God asks us to sacrifice it.
To surrender it to him.
As an offering of love and affection for Jesus. Letting Him have what we treasure. As the Lord does a work in our hearts in the process.
I know now that God had to take away what I love, so that I could learn how to love Jesus more before He can give it completely.
We will never do this perfectly.
God does not expect that.
God is good at being the leader of this process of learning to love Him most and He will do it despite our weaknesses.
My struggle in relinquishing what I love to the Lord is not that I can’t let go, but that I constantly have to sacrifice to the Lord.
I wish I could do a one-time sacrifice like Abraham was asked to do for who he loved.
But I find God asking me to do it every single day.
For many of us, this struggle of surrendering what you love to the Lord is the same. I don’t know if Abraham had a similar experience with Isaac that’s just not recorded in the Bible. Perhaps he too had to make a daily decision to love God more than Isaac. If there’s anything I know about human love, I’d say he too faced that daily struggle.
Whatever you love that you struggle to sacrifice to the Lord, I want to encourage you that God is not trying to be cruel to you. I’ve spent too long believing that lie. For God is the very provider of what you love!
He just wants your heart to not be tethered to what you love for nourishment.
Nourishment comes from God.
Then you can enjoy what you love knowing your nourishment is found in the Lord.
God’s goal is not that we should relinquish forever everything we have or will ever love. But that our hearts would be anchored in a deep love for Jesus that even the most desirable thing of earth cannot compete with.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” – Deuteronomy 6:5
Then God can give it again.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” –Matthew 6:21
God is after our hearts and while He desperately wants to bless us, He won’t give what we love more than Him. Not until God conditions our hearts through many trials to be able to both love Him most and also receive what He wants to give.
James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Abraham would not lose Isaac like he thought he would.
God gives him back.
For he passed the test.
“When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
– Genesis 22:9-14
Abraham was ready to go through with the sacrifice of his son, whom he loved.
But Abraham also knew that God could provide another sacrifice in his place if He wanted to.
Earlier in the chapter, Isaac asks his dad where the lamb is that they are going up the mount to sacrifice. Abraham answers in verse 8, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” I assume he was trying to comfort his son in the moment who had no idea what was about to take place. But what I do know is that Abraham’s trust in the Lord at this point in his life is so strong that nothing got in the way of executing the Lord’s command.
I also believe that Abraham had witnessed his fair share of damage in the wake of disobeying God. While waiting for a son, his wife Sarah convinced him to have a son with Hagar since Sarah was not having success getting pregnant. Hagar conceived and Ishmael was born. This only created problems for Abraham, Sarah and the whole family dynamic. And Hagar fled with Ishmael to the desert. Now, Abraham is wiser. He knows what happens when he disobeys God. So even though sacrificing his son Isaac is not at all what he’d want to do, he knows how painful it can be to say no to God. So he says yes.
This time Abraham chooses to do it God’s way.
And he is rewarded for it.
God spares his son!
My heart just melts at the kindness of God to be patient with us in our weakness and to keep persisting with us until we finally get it right.
There’s something about walking with the Lord through many mistakes and consequences that makes us surrendered and powerful in the hands of God. We are willing to make the hard decisions we used to avoid, all because we know that saying yes to God leads to life in the end.
After this decision, God knows He can trust Abraham.
“And [God] said, “I swear by Myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you… “
–Genesis 22:16-17 (emphasis mine)
Because Abraham passed the test, God can affirm and anoint the blessing He promised.
“…and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies.”
– Genesis 22:17
This blessing would extend far beyond Isaac as a blessing that would touch millions of lives.
There are so many parallels here with how God sacrificed his own son, Jesus Christ for our sake (John 3:16-17). The Lord never asked Abraham to do anything He had not already planned to do Himself. This is why I can trust the Lord with what I love even when it’s taken away, because He too knows my pain. He understands what it’s like to lose a son He loves. And it’s all a part of a bigger plan for His glory.
For God’s sacrifice saved millions. And continues to touch our lives to this very day.
When God takes away what you love, it’s not just to test you but to affirm the blessing he gives back to you and anoint it to touch other people.
He’s preparing us.
From Abraham’s story we know that God wanted to give Abraham a son all along!
God wanted to give Abraham a son he would love!
God wants to give you what you love too.
He won’t always take away.
There will come a time God will give again.
As we learn to love Him more.
Just like God needed to ensure Abraham wouldn’t love Isaac more than Him, God makes it clear to me that this is important. If He’d never asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham wouldn’t have gotten the picture as well as He did when his beloved son was strapped to the alter awaiting death. If God never took away what I love, I wouldn’t have been able to learn how to love God more. For that, I am very grateful. Even though it still hurts, I trust God is at work.
When we love God most, every blessing coming from God can be enjoyed to the fullest.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17
When God takes away what you love…
…I know it hurts…
…I know it stings.
God took who I love. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back.
Yet I’m comforted by this… the God of Abraham is the same God of you and me.
If God took away from Abraham and then gave his son back, He can do the same for me and you. I pray your heart, mind, body and soul is comforted by our God, the author of love and the perfecter of our faith. Entrust your love to Him. And may He be gracious to us to give back what we desire in His timing.
“For if what was fading away was glorious, what endures will be even more glorious.”
– 2 Corinthians 3:11
Questions for Today:
- Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?
- Has God taken something in my life that I love?
- If so, how can I trust God in the midst of this pain?
- Why did God give back to Abraham the son he asked him to sacrifice?
- What hope can I hold onto in seasons of sacrifice that will prepare me for seasons of blessing?