Life fluctuates. We experience the heights of elation in contentment, joy and success. On the other hand, we know the feelings of pain, resentment, confusion and restlessness. These moments can switch on a dime, when we least expect it. Part of life is learning to navigate the highs and lows; neither resigning to the worst or entitling ourselves to the best.
The book of Genesis follows the life of Abraham. This man experienced the fluctuations of life. His story begins with God asking him to go to an unknown land with no apparent direction. Throughout each episode of his life, we can see a gracious God interacting with him. Genesis 21 records the long awaited moment; Isaac is born. God keeps His promise to start a nation more numerous than the “stars in the sky…”
Normal. The moment when things work together. Our hope for no longer having the tests, detours or challenges. Can you imagine what Abraham thinks? Time to ride off into the sunset. 90 years of waiting has come to a close. As many of us love spontaneity, we desire normal. God has intervened and we can track His hand in our lives. Our lives begin to make sense.
Genesis 22 seems to come out of nowhere. Perhaps, we have become to familiar with this story. Just like in real life, we want to jump to the end without actually feeling the gravity Abraham’s situation. God asks Abraham to give his one and only son, Isaac. Haven’t we been there? The moment life becomes normal, it seems God takes the carpet right under us. Suddenly, we experience another test. Questions of doubt enamor our souls. Why in the world would God call us to this? The story ends with God stopping Abraham and providing a ram for a sacrifice. Along with Abraham, we can see God comes through.
I wrestled with this text in preparation for a class learning how to study the Bible. A text like this challenges our perspective. What does it really mean to have faith in God? Can we trust Him? John Walton, writer of the NIV Application Commentary for Genesis, provides a powerful insight for this passage:
Like the stock market, our lives have long-term prospects as well as daily fluctuations. In Genesis 21, God as El Olam, the Enduring God, was seen connected to the long haul. In Genesis 22, God as Yahweh Yireh, the Superintendent God, is seen as being concerned with the daily fluctuations of life and the needs that result. Abraham has to come to know God in both roles, as do we. (pg. 520)
In our lives of fluctuation, we find a God who both daily provides and sees the long haul. Puritans from the 16th and 17th centuries called this providence. God watches over each detail for our lives in the day to day while also planning for the long haul. The seasons of fluctuations can change us. They invite us to have a new perspective on following God. He may not direct us to the best circumstances, but He has directed us to know Him. The lows become a point where we experience His daily provisions of grace and one day look back to see His work in our lives. High points bring us to see His daily grace and realize how He has been guiding our lives.
May we gain the perspective of the God who concerns Himself with the daily provisions and the long haul of our lives. I have been finding in my life, that God is far closer than I imagined. Often, I reference Philip Yancey’s quote from Disappointed with God, “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”
Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.