January 29, 2014 by Chris French
If you’re anything like me you have bad days. Sometimes my bad days line up and I end up with a bad week or a bad month! Sometimes there’s a legitimate reason for these tough times. When someone you loves dies, you lose a job, struggle in your marriage, too much stress at work or if you’re having problems financially the normal thing is to feel bad. Usually I handle these times in my life like an adult. I sit on the couch, eat ice cream and watch t.v. for hours. Let’s just say that usually during these dark times the stuff I do is counterproductive if I’m trying to get past it.
Today we’re in Genesis 21-22 and Abraham is in a tough season of life. We don’t really know how long a period these two chapters encompass, but let’s look at why Abraham might be having a tough time.
First things first, he’s got a newborn hanging out in his tent. I bet he’s exuberant being a dad at 100, but a man’s still got to sleep! So he’s probably sleep deprived and that’s enough to make me have a bad day.
Secondly, after Isaac is weaned (read Abraham may have gotten his first good night’s sleep last night) he throws a party. Maybe he’s really excited about 6 hours in a row, not sure, but he throws a feast. At said feast Sarah sees Ishmael laughing, apparently in scorn although the Hebrew word could just mean that he was having a good time, and tells Abraham to send him and Hagar away. There was no way she was going to allow Abraham to split Isaac’s rightful inheritance with Ishmael! Everything that Abraham had built should go to Isaac, thus she told Abraham to send the boy and mother away which broke his heart. By this time the boy is at least 14 (Gen. 16.16, do the math. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born and 86 when Ishmael was born). Abraham has spent 14 years thinking of Ishmael as his heir. He’s probably taught the boy several different skills and spent a lot of time with him. Now he’s got to watch him walk off into the wilderness. Things are mounting and adding to Abraham’s bad season of life, but it’s still not over
After he sent Ishmael away God calls on him to sacrifice Isaac. Things have gone from normal, irritating troubles to heartbreak and now to devastation. How do you handle that? Let’s talk about what Abraham did during this season in his life that held his faith together.
1) Do things you don’t want to do first. When Sarah told Abraham to send Ishmael and Hagar away it broke his heart, but he got up early to do it( Gen. 21.14). You can even see this theme in Abraham’s life, because when he was told to sacrifice Isaac he got up early to start out then too (Genesis 22.3). During the rough patches in your life you probably want to be alone to wallow in your sorrows, but there are some things you need to do. Exercise helps, study helps, moving helps. Do it early in the morning. Here’s a great article on how to slay this dragon before breakfast.
2) Make amends and Forgive. When everything is not going Abraham’s way he gets in a disagreement with one of his friends over something stupid (Gen. 21.22-32). Abimelech is one of the rulers in the area where Abraham is living now and apparently there’s some mutual respect and friendship to their relationship, but when Abimelech’s servants claim Abraham’s well as their own sparks start flying. Abraham gave Abimelech 7 lambs as payment for the well thus diffusing the possibly explosive situation. During your rough day or season of life making amends and forgiving is essential. Your natural inclination when you’re hurting is to hurt others, but that won’t get you anywhere. Even if it takes sacrifice on your part you need to make things right and forgive.
3) Don’t neglect worship. The last thing I feel like doing when I’m down is worship, but everything has happened to Abraham at this point save his knowledge about Isaac’s sacrifice and he worships (Gen. 21.33). Even though you might not feel like it you need to worship. It gets you outside of yourself and that’s something you desperately need during these depressed periods in your life. Why do you think Abraham planted the tamarisk tree? I’m betting it was hot and he wanted some shade! There’s a well there so people are going to be coming there a lot, but I think it’s definitely possible that Abraham himself visited this spot to worship regularly. He’s spending a lot of time in worship there, he might as well be in the shade while he’s worshiping. If you’re depressed or having a hard time right now worship is one of the answers. It reminds us of who God is and how faithful He is.
4) Trust God. Throughout Abraham’s story you see the thread of his trust in God. He left not one, but two comfortable places so he could follow God’s command to go to Canaan. He literally walked until God told him to stop, carrying his family with him the entire time! There may be no other chapter in his life though that his trust is more evident than in Genesis 22 when he is told to sacrifice Isaac. I love what he says in Genesis 22.5. “You guys stay here. The boy and I are going over there to worship and WE’LL return.” He knew that even if he had to kill Isaac God would raise him from the dead because this is the child of promise! The only way for you to have this kind of wild trust in God is to “taste and see that He is good” (Psalm 34.8). Abraham stepped out on a shaky limb of faith when he left Ur to follow God, but repeatedly since then he’s seen God show up for him and take care of his problems. Abraham had enough experience with God to know that He was good and that He’d keep His promises. You won’t get that kind of trust by playing it safe. Dream big, plan and follow thru and see if God doesn’t show you that He is good, especially during the times in your life when you’re depressed.