Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sabbath Reflections: Stop Killing Isaac

Occasionally, I get this strange idea that I should write newspaper articles or promotional materials for a ministry or slasher horror screenplays.

You know why?

Because I don’t want to.

That’s right. There’s this weird complex I have: I feel guilty for enjoying writing fiction so much. I feel like studying professional writing is too much fun to be considered education. I wonder if God wants me to do something else, something that feels a little bit more like sacrifice, to serve Him.

Here’s the rule I’ve landed on: don’t kill Isaac if God hasn’t told you to kill Isaac.

You know the story: God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, the joy of his old age, the one God had made extravagant promises about. So Abraham, confident that God could bring Isaac back to life (see Hebrews 11), got ready to kill his own son. Then God intervened and praised Abraham for his faith and willingness to give up his greatest treasure for God.

The modern day equivalent is that one missionary who everyone has mysteriously heard (even though I’m pretty sure he/she doesn’t exist). You know, the one who says, “I just prayed, ‘God, please don’t send me to Africa.’ And then I felt a distinct call to go to Africa, where I have been ministering to headhunters without indoor plumbing ever since.”

And then everyone in the audience immediately assumes that God must be calling them to do the thing they most want to avoid.

Let me be clear: sometimes God works this way. At times, He will tell us to do things that we don’t want to do, that push us outside of our comfort zones. He can even change our desires.

But He also gave us talents and passions. God doesn’t typically say, “Oh, you love words? Enjoy reading and telling stories? Think I gave you the gift of communicating truth through fiction? Haha – just kidding! Joke’s on you. I actually want you to write computer instruction manuals. Get to work.”

Sometimes, I think we (middle-class Western Christians) feel the need to suffer more for our faith. So we haul in some artificial suffering by signing up for ministries that we aren’t gifted for and where we don’t feel called to serve…or by feeling guilty for doing something we love instead of becoming a missionary to Africa.

That is just plain silly.

Yes, we’re supposed to sacrifice for our faith. That can mean the hundreds of daily actions where we put others in front of ourselves. And, sometimes, God may call us to sacrifice something that means a great deal to us.

But let God decide.

I mean that. Sometimes, by getting ahead of God, we give up things that He gave us as good gifts, meant to be enjoyed. We’re telling Him that our plans are better than His, and look how holy we are for giving up so much for Christ! And we totally miss the point.

Christ didn’t sacrifice His life because He thought sacrifice was a good idea. He did it to save us from our sins.

Misery isn’t ever a virtue. Sacrifice isn’t a virtue in and of itself. Obedience is.

Now, don’t get so caught up in doing great things for God that you aren’t open to His voice telling you that it’s time to do something different…but do what you love. Write the message God has given you. If your passion is truth and world happenings, be a journalist. If you love teaching Scripture, focus on devotions and curriculum. And if you have stories to tell and characters to follow around, write fiction.

Do what God has made you to do, while still letting Him be in control of your life. That takes sacrifice too, but the kind the Bible actually demands.

God doesn’t expect us to be miserable as we follow Him. He doesn’t even want us to be, believe it or not. We worship Him by experiencing the joy of doing what we love.


  1. Well-stated, Amy. I've had similar feelings of guilt -- and it doesn't help when the church acts like the only way to serve God is by going into fulltime ministry. Just this past week, I had a discussion with girls on my wing regarding whether short-term missions trips are necessary for spiritual growth.

  2. I struggled for a long time with the conviction that serving God must be uncomfortable. It finally occurred to me that if the Lord gives a person a talent and passion for something, it can't be too wrong for that person to use that talent and passion. Excellent post, Amy.