“After these things God tested Abraham […]. He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering […].’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac.” (Genesis 22:1-3a)
Abraham’s life was filled with various trials. When God first spoke to him, He told him to leave his home and his father’s house and go to a land God would show him. God also promised at that time to make him a great nation. Abraham, then known as Abram, did exactly as He said, setting out to an unknown location and trusting God to bring him to a good place. As Abraham’s journey continued, God gave him more and more opportunities to increase his faith. It was twenty-five years before God fulfilled His promise to provide a son for both Abraham and Sarah, and it was many more years before that son, Isaac, had children of his own. There were many times when Abraham could have easily given up, deciding that his circumstances were too difficult for him to maintain his faith. But he chose to persevere, and God rewarded him for his faith.
One particular instance in Abraham’s life required a great deal of faith. When Isaac was still a young man, God told Abraham to offer him as a sacrifice. This was a strange request in many ways, not least because God had told Abraham repeatedly that Isaac was the child of the promise. All the world would be blessed through Isaac. Why, then, would God ask for him to be sacrificed? But Abraham didn’t question God’s judgement. By this time, he knew God well enough to understand that He had something greater planned than what he could immediately see. If God had promised that the world would be blessed through Isaac, then that would be exactly what happened. It wasn’t Abraham’s place to ask questions; his role was to obey. And as we know, God did indeed honor his obedience by sparing Isaac and providing a ram for the sacrifice in his stead.
We applaud Abraham’s faith in this situation. He firmly believed God would work everything out as He had promised, to the extent that he told his servants that both he and Isaac would return after the sacrifice. But he would never have had such faith if he hadn’t witnessed God work miracles in many circumstances before. Isaac himself was a miracle; Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 when their son was born. God had delivered Sarah twice out of the hands of foreign kings, and He had constantly protected them and provided for them in times of famine and war. All of these things had taught Abraham that God could be trusted. When He promised something, He would do it, even if it seemed impossible.
In the same way, God lets us go through difficult times in order to increase our faith. He prepares us now for even more trying things we will experience later. He is wise enough to teach us beforehand what we need to know, so that in the time of testing, we will be able to recall what we have learned and remember how He brought us through those previous things. So, in whatever trials will come our way this year, let us not complain about them and beg God to remove them. Instead, let us learn from them, recognizing that God is still at work and that He is teaching us a vital lesson. Our faith can only grow if it is tested; and a tried and true faith looks much like Abraham’s.