I struggle with anxiety. There just seems to be this part of my mind that tries to work out six solutions to every possible situation so that I’m always prepared. I’m like the Bear Grylls of the social world. However, although they say life is what you make it, I’ve discovered that life also depends on the variables you can’t control, like the people that float into your life, or unforeseen circumstances. Admittedly, that’s never great for someone whose mind is hardwired to plan, and over-plan. Like buildings, we’re all created not just from one brick, but from many.
As a part of a course I’m doing, we’ve been challenged to read the entire Bible in one year, and today I had a read of Genesis 22. Famously quoted by both Christians and non Christians trying to make a point, the chapter recounts the story of a man named Abraham who has been asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. It’s one of those stories where all the interesting things seem to happen towards the end, including the climactic moment where Abraham is holding a knife to his only child’s throat and an angel calls out to him at the last minute- Hollywood quality stuff right there. But the part that struck me, which I admit I haven’t really concentrated on before today, is the part where Abraham is walking up the mountain with his son.
Isaac said, “Father, we have the coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”
“My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the lamb.”
I can’t imagine the weight upon Abrahams shoulders. In a literal sense, he is carrying the coals and the knife he is going to use to kill his son (v6). In another sense, though, Isaac is the fulfilment of a promise from God. A promise that he would have a son, even at his age, and his offspring would spread across the world. Even God refers to this boy as “Isaac, the one you dearly love” in verse 2. When I was little, I was pretty sick for a while, and I remember very clearly my mother sobbing as my dad held her- Abraham knows he will have to return to his wife and tell her their miracle child is gone. He is walking towards the altar where he is going to sacrifice everything he has, and his son, walking beside him, innocently asks what they’re going to sacrifice.
I think the worst part of having anxiety is when you micromanage for something and all of those plans get thrown out of the window. I forgot my games for Sunday school today- I have forgotten my plans at home before. And there is this weight that drops in your stomach, and your heart begins to race, and every chemical in the brain is torn between doing everything and doing nothing (neither of which are particularly productive). Freaking out or giving up. When you’ve worked hard at something, and something gets taken away from your perfect equation- I don’t know. I really don’t.
The bible often tells us that someone questioned God, or told him it’s not possible, but none of that for Abraham. He doesn’t yell at a God that it’s not fair, he doesn’t cry or try and run away. And my mind can’t fathom that kind of faith. To walk up to an altar with everything precious to you, and calmly say that God will provide.
As Abraham is about to sacrifice his son, an angel stops him, and he sees a ram and sacrifices that instead. He doesn’t have to go through with it, as God knows he was willing to, and he names the place “God will provide”. His reaction is just to reiterate that God will provide, and there is no other record of what he (or Isaac for that matter) does. Abraham says God will provide before and after, though. God provided him with a son, and a sacrifice, and then a different sacrifice- a faith that means you bend to the will of God no matter the consequences.
The biggest struggle for me with anxiety is when something doesn’t go the way I planned. It feels like everything is going to come crumbling down around me. But then I remember that no matter how many bricks I’m made of, God is my foundation and he’s solid. When things don’t go my way, he will provide. When he asks the impossible of me, he will provide. And I will trust him because there was a time- which everyone will come to face- when there was nothing I could do. There was absolutely nothing I could do about my own sin. No good deeds or plans or worrying could get me any closer to God, and he provided a sacrifice in my place. He also sacrificed his only son, and he did it for me. God didn’t just provide a sacrifice in the place of Isaac- he provides one for us.
The Lord will provide.