I ran across an article years ago that really touched me. In her piece "A Change of Plans," Lindsy Pike details the excruciating decision to call off her wedding to a man she loved dearly. Reflecting on the mix of pain and peace that comes with any situation where we must give up something precious, Pike rewinds a few centuries to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac:
"God promised to give Abraham a son and finally, after years of waiting, God came through, with Isaac. Why in the world would God ask Abraham to give up that gift? In my opinion, it is for the same reason He asked me to call off my wedding. God wants us to love Him more than we love His promises. The minute we get those out of order, He readjusts us.”
While we don’t fully know the mind of God in Abraham’s situation, Pike’s simple thought sheds light on a struggle I think all of us encounter at some time in our lives – the struggle to love God above everything else, even His blessings. God wants us to love Him because of who He is, not what He can give us. Yet, how often do we confuse our love of God’s promises with love of Him? How often do we see Him as the divine blessing machine, ready to dole out happiness on our terms? The popularity of "prosperity theology" reveals how easy it is for believers to twist love of God into the pursuit of earthly happiness.
To be honest, it’s not just greed that gets in the way of loving God. It’s also a limited understanding of who God is. I used to wonder how some Christians could sit for over an hour praying. Is God really that interesting? I’d wonder. This type of thinking reveals a fundamental flaw in how I perceived God, and I think that flaw is what keeps many from coming to Christ in the first place. It’s easy to see Him as limited like we are limited. It’s easy to forget that God is truly our all in all. As C.S. Lewis once said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
Still, had I not gone through a similar situation, I might not have believed Pike’s sincerity when she says: "I am thankful for His grace that saved me from ruining my life by pursuing my dream."
In a “reach for the stars, be anything you can be” culture, the idea that pursuing any dream could ruin my life seems foreign. The more I think about it, though, the more I see that living outside God’s will – even if it is for a “good reason” – is a recipe for failure.
Yet, when we give up our dreams for something greater - for Someone greater than ourselves - we begin to see we can trust God no matter what. We find solace in the incredible peace that comes with knowing that even if life here includes sorrow or dreams unfulfilled, there is a God that transcends not only all that’s missing in this life, but also all the good this life has to offer.
Intersecting Faith & Life: This week, do something for God without expecting any reward or blessing in return.