I, like many people watched the History Channel mini-series “The Bible” when it aired nearly a year ago. I have not often been excited about biblically themed television shows. They tend to veer towards blatant misrepresentations after relying more on extra-biblical sources than the Bible itself. But this series, from husband and wife producers Mark Burnett (Survivor) and Roma Downey (Touched By An Angel) received much media attention and hype prior to the first episode for what critics said was careful attention to detail in staying true to Scripture.
As I watched the first episode I was pleasantly surprised and filled with promise that this could be worthy of the adjective used frequently to describe it on social media: epic. Of course it will be necessary to overlook the fact that everyone is speaking in a British accent. But I’m more interested in the series being biblically and historically accurate than employing the proper accent. (I do realize the historical inaccuracy of everyone speaking in the wrong accent. it’s just a detail that doesn’t bother me.)
As the first episode portrayed the life of Abraham, it came to the part when Abraham takes Isaac up on the mountain to offer a sacrifice. We all know the story; we’ve heard it a thousand times and can recite it in our sleep. But to watch it played out in “real life” was incredibly moving. To see a father torn by his desire to obey his God and at the same time to protect his child was heart-wrenching. We don’t often talk about how Isaac might have responded, but it seems appropriate to think he was scared, wondering what was going on, and like the movie portrayed, pleaded with his father.
The relief on Abraham’s face as he heard God’s voice tell him to “stop” and saw the sacrifice that God provided was powerful. In that moment I can only imagine how much stronger Abraham’s faith became as he realized God was true to His word. And it’s no wonder Isaac is recorded in the history of Scripture as one of the great men of faith of Israel. He went from being a sacrifice to hearing God’s voice and seeing Him provide.
I came to realize something as I watched the story unfold on my television: I don’t have the faith or the grace needed to sacrifice one of my own kids. I am a fierce protector of my kids. I’ve said on more than one occasion that if someone comes into my house and tries to hurt my family it will only be after I’m dead because as long as I’m alive I will fight. And when I think of someone else harming my kids I am immediately filled with anger. Though it might sound cliché, I would rather someone hurt me than my kids.
So the idea of God asking me to sacrifice one of my kids is a scenario that terrifies me. What if God asks me to watch one of my kids’ die of cancer? What if God asks me to trust Him as He takes one of my kids away in an accident? At this point I don’t have the grace needed to do it. I already know that I would beg and plead with God. Then again I’m sure most parents would do the same.
But I was struck by something as I was thinking about all this. The faith of Abraham and Isaac as well as their relationship was strengthened by their mountaintop experience. They became resolved in their desire to obey God no matter what the cost. This very difficult experience yielded eternal results.
Then I wondered, are our efforts to keep our kids from pain and suffering actually harming them? Are we the ones making our kids lazy, weak, and uncommitted? As parents we don’t want to see our kids suffer. We want them to be comfortable, enjoy life, and never deal with pain. As good as these sentiments are do they also produce weak Christians that turn and run as soon as being a Christian gets tough?
In 2011 I had the privilege of going to Haiti to work with a missionary. What I saw were people that, though they had almost nothing, were strong, committed Christians that refused to back down or quit despite some of the most difficult living circumstances I’ve ever witnessed. But it was in the fires of pain and suffering that these Christians were forged into strong, resolute believers.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I want to see my kids suffer so they can become strong Christians. But what I am suggesting is that it would be a good idea to plan difficult experiences with our kids. Rather than seeking to keep them sheltered and away from pain and suffering, they should be part of it. Our kids need a realistic view of the world and the fact that it is cursed and that pain and suffering exist.
The tough experiences that are often accompanied by pain and suffering serve to test us, and strengthen us. If such testing is good for us, then it is equally good for our kids. It seems to me that our kids need to cry with us, hurt with us, grieve with us, and pray with us.
Honestly, I pray I’m never asked to sacrifice one of my kids. But if God chooses to ask me to make such a sacrifice I pray that I exhibit the grace needed to so in a way that would honor Him. And I pray my child is strong enough to trust God’s goodness and plan through it all. It terrifies me to say that and yet I recognize the truth in it.