“Then God said, “Take your son to the land of Moriah and kill your son there as a sacrifice for me. This must be Isaac, your only son, the one you love. Use him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains there. I will tell you which mountain” “(Genesis 22:2, ERV).
As a Christian, I have come to the understanding that God often works in ways we are unable to understand, especially when uncomfortable situations occur, making us question if He alone is really good. Yet despite our circumstances, mishaps, highs, and lows, Jesus reminds us in Romans 8:28 that we can rest assured, for “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, ERV).
Despite this comfort, however, in the deepest inquires of my heart, I still ponder calamities as they occur. In fact, I question their existence in my life and begin to ask if I’m truly following His will. Still, the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis chapter 22 provide the answers we are looking for. Asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, Abraham’s story not only exemplifies tremendous faith but serves as a beautiful example to us in our questionings when life doesn’t quite make sense.
Simply put, God tested Abraham, but with no questions asked, Abraham took his son and the materials needed to sacrifice him as a burnt offering on the mountain God had called him to. Telling his servants that he and the boy would worship and then be back, Abraham believed and knew that God would provide amidst the unlikely scenario surrounding him. Laying Isaac on the altar, and raising his knife to slay him, an Angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham, stopping the action and later, blessing him with more blessings than he had before this encounter.
So, what does this have to do with you and me, and why would the story of Abraham and Isaac reveal the truth that sometimes, more often than not, God ceases to work in ways that we question with more questions? Because first, in order to provide, Christ is continually proving His faithfulness to us as we learn to trust and rely on Him more and more. As Abraham was faithful to God, God was faithful to Him. And secondly, Abraham was willing to give it all, his most prized and precious gift from God just to glorify Him.
Like a son or daughter to inherit the throne of royalty, Isaac was the promise of God whom Abraham’s descendants would prosper and multiply the earth. In Genesis 12,15, 21, and 22 God promises to bless Abraham and make His descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky through His offspring. Yet when God Himself asks Abraham to kill this same son, the one with whom all these promises have been made, he questions nothing and fully submits to the will of the Father at all costs.
These past weeks, in particular, I too radically encountered Christ and pondered “What’s My Isaac?” Thus, it is my prayer that such a real and raw life example will encourage you to seek Him out the same in your inquiries of sacrifice, love, turmoil, confusion, doubt, and trust.
Even when I feel like I’m gonna break
I will lift my hands to You
Open up, lift your hands higher
I know it’s hard
Give me back what I have given
Trust my heart (You can trust my heart)
I have loved him before you have
Slowly we will climb together
I’m not leavin’ you, yeah- Isaac by Hollyn
Approaching the end of my fifth fall semester at Ohio Christian University, busyness surrounded me with final projects, dance performances, ministry opportunities, and friends and family members knocking at my door with all sorts of problems. Amongst these stresses, though, Movements from the Heart (MFTH), a dance group I founded at the college for my extreme love and passion of dancing for Jesus, was proving to be the most difficult.
With less than four days before our Chapel performance, and Festival of Carols (a prestigious Christmas concert at our school) show week rapidly inching all the more closely, I am confident that MFTH, the festival, and myself, in particular, were enduring some serious spiritual attacks. Receiving word that my partner wouldn’t be back in time to perform for the Chapel performance, I was distraught. Performing here had been my dream since freshman year and given the opportunity to finally do so was a significant breakthrough for allowing dance in this type of institution. Yet deep in my heart, I knew it was unlikely I would get to dance without a partner, let alone almost impossible to find someone to try and fill in as my partner in an entirely partner-oriented dance. And in these moments, I became angry, sad, and confused. As a result, I questioned God why he would take something from me that was literally my all, my everything, my life, but I was willing to sit out while my team performed because I knew they could do it without me. Regardless of me dancing or not, I knew that I created the group to bring glory to Him, and with or without my presence on that stage at Chapel, Ohio Christian University was going to see MFTH dancing and bringing joy to Him.
Trying to find any feasible solution, however, my MFTH team was adamant that I was not sitting out at the performance. From switching partners to asking at least ten other people we could think of; the options were not looking good. I refused to take any of the other members’ partners because that profoundly convicted me, and I cared more about the team praising Jesus than me getting to dance, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t painful for me to rest in that.
Still attempting to find a solution, however, the team reached out to everyone we knew, even my half-brother who has a reputation for drug abuse so that I could perform. And at first, this seemed hopeful. My brother went to the studio with us and was receptive to learning the routine in four days, yet something looked off. He was having trouble catching on more than usual and couldn’t focus. Long story short, when I got back home with him, he told me he was on meth, pulled some out of his pocket, and then flushed it down the toilet. That same brother is now in rehab getting help as I am faithfully praying for him.
Mortified, shocked, and embarrassed, I felt God prompt me to text a friend I lead worship with on Sunday’s. Instead of questioning why I would ask her for prayer, especially because we aren’t that close, however, I poured out everything going on, and she began to pray for me. Coincidently, she then remarked that she wished her boyfriend wasn’t so busy, who I had forgotten had a ton of dance experience. Replying with “do you think he might?”, she asked him, and the next two days I prayed for God’s will.
That first night, I knew that the option was unlikely, so I tried not to get my hopes up. Praying to God, pouring out my heart to Him, reading the Scriptures, and truly surrendering all control, I reflected over the events of that day. In the forefront of my mind, an off comment made by one of my fellow dancers that morning at practice stood out to me. Talking about the song “Isaac” by Hollyn, I felt the Spirit leading me to listen to the song. Pressing play on my Spotify, I realized that I had heard the song before, but disliked it because I could never understand the words. Yet in this moment, something in me told me to look up the lyrics, and as I did, I couldn’t help but praise God in my unbelief, questioning, and doubt. Quickly reading the story of Abraham and Isaac, I realized that dance was my Isaac, but I was willing to give it all away if it meant God’s glory shined through the midst of my sorrow.
The next morning, Thanksgiving to be exact, I was again filled with questions as I awaited an answer. Finally accepting that I wouldn’t be dancing and had to be okay with that, I told God that, but also told Him how hard it was for me. Flipping on Isaac again to comfort my heart, the following lines struck a chord in my questioning spirit:
This is so important
No, don’t rush what I’ve started
See I am doing a new thing, yeah, a new thing
You’re faithful to me, I’m faithful to You
You loved me first, no questions asked
You’re faithful to me, I’m faithful to You
‘Cause You loved me first, no questions asked- Isaac by Hollyn
A few hours later, my friend’s boyfriend texted me back and agreed to learn the dance. That Sunday, the team taught him the entire routine in a day, and we performed the next day as if he had been my partner all along. With tears streaming down my face and praising my Savior, I cried in joy, that even in my sorrow and questioning, God was truly using every good and bad event for my well-being. Quickly texting my friends to let them know, I began to realize that if I hadn’t asked my brother to perform, and he wouldn’t have been doing drugs, I never would have asked that friend for prayer. And if I would never have asked that friend for prayer, I would not have thought to ask her boyfriend to be my partner. Likewise, if my friend hadn’t mentioned the song Isaac in the car, I never would have listened to it or read that story to comfort me in my prayer time with Jesus.
“I keep thinking of Abraham and Isaac. You were willing to sit out for this performance, so God blessed you in return for it and allowed you to dance anyway. Your faithfulness and dedication to this team and more importantly to the Lord and your trust in Him is just WOW…God really had a plan the whole time”- she remarked with boldness, not knowing I had listened to the song or read the story. Continuing to weep in adoration of His grace, I was immediately overwhelmed by both the presence and comfort of my Heavenly Father holding me. Like Abraham about to slay own son, I felt the Father whisper to me that when we are faithful to Him, and truly willing to give it all, “Isaac will be saved” (Hollyn).
This past weekend, my original partner returned for the festival performance, and I can say with certainty that the dance was a blessing to the people in attendance. Thus, it is in these moments that I sit back in awe and wonder at the works God is continually doing in me. Crying as I reflect over His blessings, I realize now that our greatest victories come from the most difficult challenges and only a good and faithful Father could use a drug-infested, Satan-scheming, and spiritually attacked situation and turn it into a beautiful artwork of His redeeming promises to me.
“The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time. The angel said, “You were ready to kill your only son for me. Since you did this for me, I make you this promise: I, the Lord, promise that I will surely bless you and give you as many descendants as the stars in the sky. There will be as many people as sand on the seashore. And your people will live in cities that they will take from their enemies. Every nation on the earth will be blessed through your descendants. I will do this because you obeyed me” “(Genesis 22:15-18, ERV).
Even when you feel like you are going to break, remember, Isaac’s saved.