In our world, it can be easy to coast in work, school, or your personal life and never really have to learn to sacrifice.
When a person first becomes a Christian, and has to surrender habits, or belief in only oneself, or accept things that don’t make linear sense, we are often called to sacrifice. For the record, sacrificing ego, or the illusion of interpersonal security, or comfort, or the lies about our identities really sucks. As Christ sacrificed for us, we are put into this whirlwind of dying to our own selfishness and leaving selfishness nailed to the cross.
It doesn’t feel good. It’s growing and stretching and conflict that is like stretching out new skin. If you’ve ever seen the process of tanning an animal hide, the growing, bending, stretching, and learning to grow in the right direction is similarly uncomfortable.
It can be easy during this time to wonder if God really looks after our best interests. Like, is the growing worth it? What if I need all those things you are asking me to give up? What if I am not really a full person without those things? What if I don’t know who I am anymore?
Those worries are real, and to a certain extent, legitimate. But God really is good. He really does look after us. He really does call us away from things that would hurt us for a reason. And it is absolutely for the best that he’s in charge.
More often than not, God doesn’t call us to abandon the parts of our character we have wrapped up in a certain sin, but he transforms our character to no longer need them. Whether or not it’s relational satisfaction that we can’t get without him, or peace that wouldn’t otherwise be available to us, or just a family where we can belong, God gives us the deepest unspoken wishes of our hearts so that we can live in a way that means something. God doesn’t drag us away from good things, but keeps us at a distance from the things we blindly followed before so that we actually have to acknowledge that they don’t bring us happiness. Eventually, you can see that it’s for the best. But in the meantime? We are still called to sacrifice.
If you walk in faith, you are rewarded through faith. It’s a lot harder for God to bless you when you follow false paths that distract you from him. God knows that we are only ever satisfied when our source and our freedom is in him. When we focus on earthly crap and invent all sorts of idols to worship, we become less and less satisfied. It’s difficult to give us the best of what he has when we intentionally pursue the worst.
If you keep moving, you get to this point where even if the sacrifice was confusing, you have peace over what you surrendered. Even if it still doesn’t make sense, you no longer need it to. Eventually, I’ve seen that sense of understanding come, but I’ll level with you: it doesn’t always. Still, after following God for a while, you are much better able to understand the intentions behind his love, and to appreciate and not resent them.
I believe that sacrifice is a necessary firstfruits of our faith. Giving patience, allowing the Lord to stretch you, being completely honest as you face your sin, and cultivating a prayerful relationship so that you’re actually communicating with God makes the process easier. It helps to be in community, and have others who can teach you about the Lord and encourage you about his strength to overcome your sin, without making it seem like it’s up to you to overcome it. The Lord will help you overcome if you have the desire to conquer. All things are possible in Christ.
Sacrifice absolutely does not feel good, but it definitely solidifies our sense of commitment. To be honest, within the United States, there needs to be a people fully aware of what it means to surrender and keep commitments. This knowledge will pass away if people don’t rise up to defend the truth in Christ. If we aren’t willing to allow some discomfort, we don’t testify accurately about a Savior who gave himself up for us. The sacrifices on this path don’t stop, but God gives us strength and endurance. As we go deeper and pursue the things of God, this sense of commitment grows, and we desire to know more about God. It’s a circle that feeds itself, and for God’s glory. How can we testify in love if we stay lukewarm? If you aren’t willing to sacrifice for God and the better life he wants for you, it’s going to be difficult to really follow the Lord.