The thing is, sometimes there is no voice calling out, "Stop! I've seen your heart. You don't actually have to go through with it." Samuel told Saul that obedience is better than to sacrifice, but sometimes obedience requires sacrifice. One of my amazing friends reminded me just a few days ago that the story of Abraham and Isaac contains the first mention of the word "worship" in scripture--and it was in conjunction with sacrifice. Something always dies when we worship in its truest form.
But back to the point...so often we parade our "Isaacs" across the altar--the dream job, the relationships, the promises to which we cling--all the time waiting for the divine intervention that God chooses not to send. And when we look down and see the life-blood of what we held most dear spilling over our hands, we begin asking in a confused daze, "God, where were You?" In the clamor and the emotional turmoil, sometimes it's hard to hear His whispered response–"here."
Hebrews 4 contains such a beautiful promise to us in verse 15:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. Instead, we have one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet he never sinned.
I know that when I lose something precious to me, the temptation is there to allow myself to be swept away in a rush of emotions. I find myself doubting that I truly heard the voice of the Lord. I struggle with blaming myself and even blaming God for the discomfort that follows. I throw myself into any project I can find to avoid the phrases "it's not fair" and "I don't understand." Six little words not even used in the same sentence all the time that nip at my heels like dogs and tug at my peace of mind. Does Jesus truly understand that?
And then I think about the cross--the fulfillment of the shadow that the Lord played-out in the Abraham/Isaac sacrifice. Jesus came with a purpose and was aware of the end of His story from the beginning, but the Gospels tell us that He agonized enough to sweat blood the night before He died. I wonder if He was thinking about Abraham when they crucified Him. I wonder if perhaps part of Him was also waiting for the Father to speak up and say, "No--there's another way" as Jesus stumbled toward the cross, even though He knew there wasn't.
I think Jesus's cry--"My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"--was the ultimate expression of the "God where were You?" question. In that moment, Jesus showed us that He felt, in excruciating detail, every agonizing emotion that comes coupled with a call for sacrifice--with a call for true worship.
That is the Jesus I find myself holding onto--the one who "gets it." And He proved without question that the end result is worth it, even if God doesn't stop the process of sacrifice.