God shall provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering...(Genesis 22:8)
This portion of scripture has always been particularly meaningful to me, as I assume it is to most believers. It shows us the sameness of God. He truly changes not. He provided the lamb to redeem Isaac and He provided The Lamb - Christ - to redeem us. He was then and is now The God Who Provides. It also shows us His sovereignty. He sovereigly fulfilled His promise to Abraham, though his wife Sarah was old. He sovereignly called Abraham to sacrifice his son, led him to a particular hilltop, and stopped him at the exact moment in time some poor animal was getting himself caught in a bush. But as I read it again this weekend, something else struck me:
God provides for Himself everything He ever requires from us.
Whatever it is that we lose or are required to sacrifice, God first had to give.
He gives and He takes away.
He gives, sometimes, for the express purpose of taking away.
Certainly, He gives knowing He will take away.
On the surface, that sounds a bit cruel, but we do not serve a cruel God. What He does He calls "good", even when at first it may seem a painful kind of goodness. But, His taking away is no less good than His giving is, for His motive is always to work all things together for our good, to display His favor on our lives and bring Glory to His Name. The God who rejoices over us with singing could not be glorified in causing His children to suffer needlessly. But He can be glorified as we endure our sufferings, our losses and our sacrifices in light of His Character rather than our pain or disappointment. In this, in our hope and joy anchored in His goodness (not in circumstances) He is glorified and the world sees The God Who Provides, is full of tender mercy and steadfast love, who is our Comforter, and Healer, and Faithful Friend.
There is no loss we can suffer which should threaten to shake or diminish the truth of who God is in our lives...who He promises to be. He gave Himself for sinners such as us; what have we lost or been asked to sacrifice that can compare?
I humbly suggest the answer to that question is: Nothing.
That is not meant to diminish the real pain and difficulty that comes with what is taken or what we are required to sacrifice. But, could we truly call these things losses or sacrifices were it not for the pain? The pain is part of it, I think. In Job, it says ...he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. Job 5:18
He injures, but His hands heal. He takes away, but He gives and promises whatever toll He takes to satisfy our soul. (John Piper) That and so much more. He promises that all things...all loss, and sacrifice, and pain, and suffering...will work together for good. He promises that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives - not just on the days when we don't experience pain. He promises that our loss will be gain and that He has set joy before us that we can endure anything we face today. And more than all of this, He promises that, whatever comes or doesn't come, whatever we lose or keep, whatever sacrifice is required, He will never leave us, nor forsake us. He will provide the lamb - whether that lamb is a way out of loss or a way to bear it - and underneath it all are the everlasting arms to carry and comfort and heal.
He will provide all that is required...all we can do is say: AMEN!