When you don’t see the ram..

I wrote a post last week about God’s provision and specifically used the story of Abraham. I made the point that Abraham knew God would provide when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac. Either by providing a replacement, or bringing him back to life. In the end, God told Abraham not to harm his son and there was a ram in the bushes to fulfill the sacrifice.

But, what about when the ram isn’t there? What about the times you pray specifically and there is no visible way out. J.O. has been blessed with an amazing job the past 14 years. He went to work at this place when Trey was a baby. The way the door opened for him to work there was nothing short of a God thing. J.O.’s dad met a guy through his John Deere business that was in the exact field J.O. was looking to get into. This man wasn’t looking to hire anyone at the time, but said J.O. could come in and talk with him. J.O. had another job offer at the time, but wasn’t too excited about it. It was a grant writing position and the epitome of a desk job. J.O. couldn’t imagine sitting behind a desk all day, but he was also terrified to turn it down.

When he met with this man David, they hit it off immediately. David decided to take a chance on him and the partnership was born. J.O. loved this job. He was good at it and thrived in the environment. He worked a lot and was often stressed, but it was easy to overlook because it provided a great life. I often felt like a cheat when people would tell me how great it was what we were doing with fostering and adopting. I knew so many others that sacrificed so much financially and it wasn’t that way for us. It felt wrong to put us into that category.

Time marched on and and things were going really well. Until they weren’t. Seemingly overnight things at work got more stressful and no matter how hard we prayed they just weren’t improving. We had friends praying with us, and one of our friends put it best: “It seems the harder I pray, the worse it gets.” J.O. and I started praying for God to show us what to do. But truthfully, we were praying without really expecting anything to change. Really, what I meant was this: “God help the stress to go away and the money to come.”

Looking back now, I was praying bold prayers with my own thought process of how they should be answered. I assumed the ram was there but just hidden for a bit longer.

Then, on Friday, J.O. was called into the office and let go. You could’ve hit him with a ton of bricks. He was hurt, devastated, and lost. He still is. I was mad. Still am. That ram isn’t stuck in a bush. It’s not even there. 14 years, 5 kids later, seemingly down the drain.

However, once I somewhat calmed down, I realized J.O. would’ve never walked away from this job and I would’ve never encouraged it. But, I could see the stress and strain this job put on him. The time it took away from our family. The burden he carried for everyone he worked with. The way he and I had both allowed his identity to be caught up in his job.

He was on the phone with someone after this happened, and I heard the person say “but this is who you are.” And it stopped me in my tracks. This is NOT who J.O. is. J.O. is the man who for the last 15 years has gotten up before me and made my coffee, who has fixed breakfast for kids for the last 13 years. Who has prayed with me, for me, and over me. Who has looked the other way when I spent too much, or came up with crazy ideas for our family. That’s who he is.

The ram wasn’t there. It never came for us and that’s okay. Because the Lamb was already sacrificed. God knew this day would come and that we would be hurt and lost and wondering what to do. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know if we will have to make major life changes as painful as that would be. But, we do know this. Just because our prayer didn’t turn out the way we hoped, doesn’t mean it wasn’t answered. We have a choice to make. We can be bitter, angry, and resentful that God took something so important from us. Or we can praise Him for His answer. And as hard as it may be; we are both praising Him for His answer.

Provision

J.O. and I were recently talking about some things that seem to be going in the opposite direction of where we need them to go. It led us to talk about all the ways God has provided in our life, and how we had to trust He would continue. But did I believe that? Or did I only believe that when I wanted Him to fix something? How often did I trust in God’s provision now matter how things were going?

One morning, I decided to look up every time the Bible talked about God’s provision. One of the hardest stories for me in the Bible is when God told Abraham to place his son on the altar. Do you remember that one? If you don’t, here’s a quick refresher: God told Abraham to take Isaac into the woods and build an altar. As they were building it, Isaac became curious what they would sacrifice. Can you imagine being Abraham in that time? Honestly, this story has always made me a little aggravated. Why in the world would God expect Him to sacrifice the child he had waited on for years. That seemed so unfair.

If you continue on with the story, you know that Abraham obeyed. He strapped Isaac onto the altar and was getting ready to sacrifice his son when he was stopped by a voice. This voice told him not to harm Isaac and suddenly a ram appeared for the sacrifice. As hard as this story is to believe, I do think it’s literal. I believe this actually happened even though some argue it’s an illustration. I mean, I get why it’s so hard to understand. If I tried to strap Trey onto an altar of wood and light him on fire, I would be arrested and Trey put into protective services. And rightfully so.

However, while this is hard for us to understand, for the first time it hit me: Sometimes, we have to be taken through things we don’t understand to be reminded there is a ram in the corner. Now, I’m not naive enough to think all our hardships look the same. Some seem extremely unfair. I look at friends who have lost a spouse, a child, their house due to finances, and grieve with them, but I can’t understand it.

However, I know that in my own life I am so guilty of becoming complacent and putting my trust in other things until they are slowly stripped away. There’s more to the story of Abraham that is easy to miss. When Abraham was told to go sacrifice his son, he told people they were going to worship God, but that they would be back. Now, you can think one of two things here: Abraham thought God was just playing (we have no evidence that God had tricked Abraham before so that’s a reach) or he knew God would provide.

Here’s the hard reality in our life all these years later: Sometimes, the ram doesn’t show up to save the day in a way we would expect. Pain and suffering happen. Jobs are not good and money is not there. Illness strikes and people die.

Sometimes, we don’t see the ram waiting in the bushes. Sometimes, we see no way out of a situation. But make no mistake….the ultimate sacrifice has already been made on our behalf. The day has already been saved. We don’t have to wonder what God will ask us to do next. We already know. Sometimes His provision is hard to see. Sometimes we may not understand it this side of Heaven. But, it’s always there because it’s already been done. That is provision we can count on even when we don’t understand.