Sacrifice. There’s no way to sugar-coat it. It hurts. It’s supposed to. Sacrifice isn’t pleasant. It is the act of giving up something you love or value for a greater purpose. Whether you are the giver or recipient, sacrifice is a holy pain enveloped in humility and love.
We sacrifice in one way or another. As parents, we give up things in order to provide for our children. We sacrifice being “friends” with our children in order to grow them into responsible, healthy adults. We sacrifice financial freedom when we make large purchases, like a home. Some people sacrifice parts of their bodies for those they love, like a friend of mine who gave one of her kidneys to her son.
Sometimes we sacrifice relationships so that God has the space He desires to work in and through those hearts and lives. If that has ever happened to you, you know the depth of that pain and anguish. You were not the first to travel that journey – many have gone before you. Abraham, who loved both his sons, had to let go of Ishmael as God had required. Then Abraham was faced with sacrificing Isaac, yet God stopped that sacrifice at the last moment. Moses’ mother had to let her baby Moses go so that he would live. Hannah bore Samuel, the son she so desperately prayed to have. She sacrificed a life with her child as she dedicated him to God and sent him to grow up in the temple, fully devoted to the One who gave him to her in the first place. Each one of these individuals moved through their pain to sacrifice, knowing that they were letting go of what they loved for a greater purpose… and God fully understands, for His was the greatest sacrifice of all.
“For God so loved that world, that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16
“He gave His one and only Son…” Why? Out of love. For whom? For you and for me, and for every person God has ever created. The Father sacrificed (for a time) His relationship with His Son to restore His relationship with us. In the same way, Jesus sacrificed His life for us, even though He had the power to come down off that cross at any time. Through our sacrifices – the pain and anguish we feel on the inside – we can relate to when we read in Scripture the torture Jesus experienced… and He knows completely the pain we feel when we sacrifice. Sacrifice hurts, but we can find joy in it and we should.
Again and again, God speaks in His Word the blessings of sacrifice. God gave Abraham His peace that passes all understanding when Abraham obeyed and let Ishmael go. God then blessed Abraham again with restoring his relationship with Isaac and blessing generations to come. God was testing Abraham’s faith; His intention was never to take the life of Isaac, but Abraham didn’t know that at the time. Moses’ mother let go of her baby boy because her faith in God was stronger than her concern of setting her son to float away down a river. She was obedient to her faith. God blessed her by returning her to her son as a caretaker until he was grown. Hannah, her pain came from not having a son, but when God answered her prayer, she found pure joy through her sacrifice of dedicating Samuel to God.
Then there was Jesus. He knew what lie ahead and He knew how His followers would respond to His sacrifice before that day on Calvary ever came. He told them,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy… So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” ~John 16:20-22
Jesus knew that with sacrifice will come joy.
Each one of these sacrifices grew out of faith, generosity, and obedience. Their faith in God, His ways unknown, was stronger than what they saw before them. Each recognized that what they had been given was never theirs to begin with. All they had came from God and He is the ultimate overseer. Their sacrifices were given the way God gives – generously. Finally, each one of these individuals was obedient to God’s will, whether the obedience came in faith of a future relationship, restoration or just believing God has a greater plan.
Yes, sacrifice hurts, and it can hurt deeply, but when you sacrifice the way God sacrifices, “your sorrow will turn into joy.”
Over the past weeks, we’ve studied four topics: faith, generosity, obedience and sacrifice. When you think about it, what we’ve studied is the art of letting go. With faith, we let go of what we can see and trust in the unseen, but ever-so-evident promises of God. Generosity is all about letting go of the things of this world, knowing they were never ours to begin with. Obedience is the art of letting go of control, trusting that giving up what we want in favor of what God desires leads to a much richer life. Sacrifice is the ultimate letting go. God sacrificed His Son, and with the deepest love turned His back on Him, letting Him go so that we – you and me – would no longer be seen as sinful human beings, but as beloved children of God through the sacrificial eyes of Jesus. Jesus, with all the power in the universe, sacrificed Himself for us, allowing Himself to be beaten, mutilated and killed in the most inhumane way, so that we would be with Him forever. On that one day, God let go; Jesus let go. We should let go and let God lead our lives, with arms wide open knowing there is great joy that lies ahead.