One of the simple joys of life is receiving your favorite cake on your birthday. The first slice is so delicious and gratifying, as is the second, usually had for breakfast the next morning. By the third slice, it’s not nearly as special and the fourth and fifth servings are reluctantly eaten as to not be wasteful. It’s interesting how something so special loses its appeal through over-indulgence. Life, just like our diet, isn’t designed to be sweet all the time.
In Scripture, this concept reveals itself again and again. Abraham, whom God called “my friend,” (Isaiah 41:8) was as deserving of God’s best treatment as any human. However, Abraham’s life is a mixture of flavors, not just sweet. Abraham received a blessing when God told him, “I will make you a great nation…” (Genesis 12:2) but soon ran into a famine where God sent him, so he went to Egypt (Genesis 12:10). He was chased out of Egypt by Pharaoh because he told the lie insisting his wife, Sarah, was actually his sister. (Genesis 12:20) After this, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, goes his own way right into the most wicked city of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 13:11) In Genesis 14:8-16, we read about Abraham waging war just to rescue Lot and his family. Abraham’s life is hardly a piece of cake.
The 15th chapter of Genesis shows the great covenant God makes with Abraham, “Look toward the heavens, and number the stars, if you are able to number them…so shall your offspring be.” (v. 5) Genesis 16 tells the story of Abraham hurrying God’s process along, leading him to have an illegitimate child with his servant, creating much tension between he and Sarah. Eventually, in Genesis 21, God does deliver a son to Abraham, named Isaac, but in the next chapter, Genesis 22, God asks him to sacrifice the child on a mountain. Before the sacrifice is made, God provides another sacrifice and promises, “…in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (v. 18) Wow, that’s certainly a life full of various flavors – sweet, sour, and everything in between.
If life were cake every day, wouldn’t life lose its special appeal? Wouldn’t the sweet things of life become trivial and meaningless? In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Solomon says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Just as healthy vegetables contain the nourishment we need but not the flavor we want, the trials of life, though undesired, give us the lessons and wisdom we need to flourish. Do we trust what God places on our table?