A Living Sacrifice

I wrote this on my previous blog in June of 2008. At the time my husband was unemployed due to a layoff, my father-in-law was embattled in a cancer fight he would eventually lose, and my family of 3 were living in very tight 1-bedroom apartment (our bed, in the living room, doubled as our couch). We had moved there temporarily until our house was built, but our building plans were put on indefinite hold because of the layoff. 

If you find yourself in difficult circumstances right now, perhaps this blog will be of encouragement.

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Focal Verses: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).

I’m learning a lot about faith these days. It seems like life has thrown us nothing but one disappointment after another over the last year, and some days, I just wonder when there will be some relief. Hope. Restoration.

I’d like to say that I’ve been the one who has been the family cheerleader, the one with the positive outlook, reminding everyone else that God has a greater purpose for our travails. Deep down, even though I have to cheer on myself at times, I believe it. I have clung to the hope that God wouldn’t let us go through all of this if there weren’t a greater purpose. And deep down, my hope has been that in the end, we’ll be able to see God weaving every circumstance together for the good, and alas, we’ll have our happily ever after.

As you can imagine, this outlook can be a little tiring. Sometimes I’ve grown weary and have wondered how long my strength is going to last. Is there a limit to my faith? It has been a little frightening. Yet today as I was thinking about everything that has happened, and the hope I have that surely some glimmer of hope is bound to come soon, God whispered a new perspective into my ear. The thought crossed my mind, What if there is no magical answer, no final solution? What if there is no happily ever after? What if God is calling us to live in this adversity indefinitely?

I let my mind ponder on this, and as I did, God brought to mind the chorus of a song by Jeremy Camp, “What it Means.” Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

Show me what it means, To live my life a sacrifice, If only I would realize how much It took to pay the price, I know I’d always give, Everything to you.

It is hard for me to put into words what the Holy Spirit gently reminded me. But it basically came down to this: God doesn’t owe me a happy ending. If he wants me to live my life – even the rest of my earthly days if necessary – in adversity, so be it. He gave his all to me in giving his Son, and the least I can do is offer him my life. I think I’ve gotten myself so programmed to believing in this happy ending that he would provide, that my faith has been in his ability to provide it rather than trusting that he is all I need.

Perhaps God hasn’t provided the solution to our adversities yet because he wants me to become completely dependent on him. That doesn’t make God insensitive or uncaring. It is actually the opposite. He cares enough to allow me to go through these things because he knows that anything I cling to in this world is rubbish anyway. He hates seeing me hurt, but he knows if by going through these trials, I can become less dependent on the things of this world – even GOOD things – then I will find my complete joy in him.

Now, that’s not to say that I have given up on my happy ending. But I realized that this happy ending, even though I believed it was going to come from God, should not have been the source of my hope. Job says it all too well in Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

My hope should come in offering myself as a living sacrifice, so I can live in a way as to worship the God who gave his all for me. Any other blessings that he provides is just “gravy.”

Who knows, maybe this is the “secret” of contentment Paul was talking about in Philippians 4:12: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Looking back, I can see God’s faithful provision through the years.  My husband got a better job than he had had before the layoff, and we were able to build our house. Although God took Matt’s dad home in November 2009, God followed with great blessing by allowing our daughter Alyssa and Matt’s sister’s daughter Emma to be conceived in the months following.   

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