I drop a load of heavy grocery bags on the kitchen counter and walk out the front door to grab the last of the bags. I look back over my shoulder at our two-year-old puppy as he tilts his head at me, asking me (in his adorable dog-way) where I’m going.
“Sit……. Stayyyyy,” I say.
These are daily words in the Bowerman household as we try to train Chief, our adorable rescue pup. He’s the sweetest thing ever and he is OBSESSED with attention, affirmation, and ear scratches. But he’s not a fan of sitting still, especially when there are other, more exciting things, going on around him.
He hesitates, then he sits. I say “stay” one more time before I walk out the door, just for good measure, and he whines and lurches a bit, wanting to follow me but knowing that his obedience will earn him an ear scratch and a “good boy.”
Funny enough. When there’s food involved, he has no problem at all sitting still. We’ll hold a goldfish (or on a really good day a leftover bone) in front of him and all of a sudden he’s as still as a statue, eyes fixed on the delicious morsel in front of him.
Maybe this is a strange analogy, but I feel like this often as I walk through the ups and downs of life with God. Sometimes obedience to the Lord looks like something I enjoy, such as going on a mission trip or spending time with my family or encouraging a fellow believer over coffee.
Other times, obedience to the Lord makes me squirm with discomfort. He’ll tell me to say no to an opportunity that I wanted to happen or to take a job that I don’t really enjoy or to move away from the people i love or to say no to worldly pleasures that I think would make me happy.
So I obey, albeit, sometimes begrudgingly. But as I obey I squirm with discomfort, I whine like my dog Chief, asking the Lord if there could be a different, more enjoyable form of obedience for me.
Why couldn’t the Lord just ask me to do things I enjoy? Why does obedience have to be hard sometimes?
I do realize that I sound like a whiny toddler, but these are honestly the thoughts that sometimes run through my head. And I’d like to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not alone in this.
Looking back over the past few years, in some ways it is so clear to see the Lord’s hand and direction, leading me to specific places and people. In some ways it’s clear to see how my obedience to Him ended up benefiting me or growing me.
In other ways, it is still unclear as to why the Lord had me in a specific job or relationship or situation. I still don’t see the good that has come out of some difficult obedience in my life.
But. I am comforted when I look in Scripture and see the big story of God’s people. Over and over and over and OVER again, the Lord graciously reminds His people to obey Him.
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine” – Exodus 19:5
Sometimes this obedience was easy and sometimes it was extremely hard. Sometimes this obedience looked like the disciples sharing a meal and wine with their Savior. Sometimes this looked like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for YEARS. Sometimes this looked like the followers of Jesus being stoned or even crucified for their obedience to Christ.
But. When I look at the big picture, I see something beautiful happening here. The Lord is shaping His people. He is creating them into his “treasured possession.” He is slowly conforming them into His image, so that they can be reflections of His glory to the nations.
So maybe, just maybe, I can believe that my painful obedience (which seems like a finger prick when compared to the suffering of the Old and New Testament saints), is effecting the same kind of good. I can take heart in the fact that the call to obedience, especially the call to a sacrificial type of obedience, is a means of grace to help me to look away from myself and to look to Jesus.
Jesus. Who provides an example of the most beautiful, most sacrificial, most painful obedience of all. Obedience to the will of the Father. Obedience to leave the joy of heaven to enter the brokenness of earth. Obedience to live among His people and then die a criminal’s death for their salvation.
Oh, I pray for the strength and the grace to trust the Lord enough to believe that the things He asks of me are good. They may not feel good or seem good, but they are part of His glorious will and for the sake of His magnificent glory.
May the Lord help us to see that His glory and His will is of more worth than our temporary comfort.
May the Lord help us to look away from ourselves, to look to Jesus, and to obey.