Spend some time listening to testimonies of people who have been converted to Christ, and it probably will not be too long until you hear a promise that believing in Christ will make your life easier in some way. Most people who say such things or who give the impression that the life of faith is easy are motivated by a desire to see as many people converted to Christ as possible, so their ways of speaking about Christ are understandable. However, such individuals do a disservice to people who are considering the claims of Christ. In truth, trusting in Jesus adds complications to our lives that we do not have before placing our faith in Him. Often in the Christian life, we have to trust God in hard places, believing that He is commanding us to do things that are ultimately for our good even if we cannot yet understand how that could be so.
The life of Abraham illustrates this point. Abraham often had to trust God when it was difficult to do so, and he sometimes failed to believe the Lord. He was promised many descendants, but when God seemed to be taking too long to fulfill His promise, Abraham took matters into his own hands and fathered Ishmael with his wife’s maid Hagar (Gen. 15:1–6; 16:1–16). Such an action shows us that Abraham did not necessarily find it easier to trust God than we do.
However, the greatest test of Abraham’s faith did not come until years after he had Ishmael. Decades passed and finally Sarah conceived a child, and Isaac, the son of the promise, was born (21:1–7). The couple’s trust in God was finally vindicated after years and years of waiting, and we can hardly imagine the joy that Isaac brought to his parents. But soon this trust was tested again when Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, the son for whom he had waited for what no doubt seemed like an eternity (22:1–2).
Abraham did pass his test, but clearly he struggled to do so. He did not set out with Isaac right away, but he delayed his trip until morning, maybe even hoping that God would call off the test (v. 3). It seems that Abraham could finally move forward because he believed God would provide a substitute for Isaac (v. 8), but since God did not tell him that explicitly, he must have endured great agony until the Lord finally did provide the lamb just in time (vv. 9–14). Abraham was no superhuman saint; he struggled to trust God when it seemed impossible to do so. But he did trust God, showing himself to be a model of faith for us.