Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the
knife to slaughter his son. (Bereshit/Genesis 22:10)
The Akeida, the Binding of Isaac, is one of the most disturbing
stories in the entire Bible. Yes, it turns out okay, but its outworking
must have been extremely traumatic for those involved. The focus of the
story is mainly on Abraham, as he was the one whose faith was tested,
but what about Isaac? Even though he was rescued by God at the last
minute, he discovered that his father's commitment to God was such that
he was even willing to kill him. The memory of the knife about to be
plunged into his heart most likely stayed with him for the rest of his
But it was only a test, right? God rescued him. He never intended
that Abraham would actually kill him. But Isaac didn't know that at the
time. Neither did Abraham for that matter, who surmised that if
necessary God would raise Isaac from the dead (see Hebrews 11:19; cf.
Bereshit/Genesis 22:5). That's all fine and dandy, but Isaac still had
to endure the experience. Was he relieved when God stopped his dad at
the last minute? I would hope so, but was the positive outcome
sufficient to prevent the lingering trauma? Of that I am not too sure.
There is nothing exactly like this anywhere else in the Bible. Yet
there is something about Isaac's experience that is more common than we
might think. Isaac isn't the only person to have had a traumatic
experience at the hand of God. Noah and his family may have been the
sole survivors of the flood, but think what it must have been like to be
cooped up in the Ark with all those animals for all that time, as they
were tossed by the raging sea, not knowing when they would get out. It
was partly due to the dreams God gave Joseph that his brothers were
provoked to murderous jealously, resulting in great suffering. David
barely escaped murderous attempts on his life by his own father-in-law,
Saul King of Israel, all because of God's plan for his life.
God leads people into very difficult situations at times. Standing up
for what's right might result in rejection from loved ones or
persecution by society. Helping others in need can be painful. Risking
our lives for a cause we believe has been inspired by God may result in
failure and humiliation. An eventual positive result, like that which
happened to Isaac, may not remove the sting of the experience. And
there's no guarantee that all traumatic experiences have positive
endings, even within the context of following God.
Whatever the cause of one's trauma or the reason for its lingering
effects, one thing that doesn't help those struggling with such things
is the notion that genuine faith in God means that we would never
experience trauma in the first place. Human psychology is complex.
Different people relate to life differently. Some people get over
painful experiences easier than others. Perhaps you were never afraid of
bees until the day you were stung. Now the sheer mention of bees sets
off anxiety. You try not to react when you see one, but you do anyway.
And there are experiences that are a lot more traumatic than getting
I don't know if Isaac was nervous around his father after all that
happened on the mountain that day. If Abraham was willing to kill him at
God's command, what else might he do? Maybe he only got anxious when he
saw his father holding sharp objects. Perhaps he was completely fine -
one difficult day of unusual behavior, and then back to normal. If so,
then I am not like Isaac. What about you?
If you struggle with trauma, whatever the reason, maybe you need help
in working through it. Don't be embarrassed or put yourself down because
you can't seem to get over a difficult experience from the past. Life
can be really nasty at times, even in the will of God.
One more thing. If you suffer from trauma, I hope you get over it.
But in the meantime let me remind you that the world we live in is
really messed up. One day God will set everything to rights, but until
then, life can be painful. However, we don't have to face the pain of
trauma alone. There was one person who endured a traumatic experience
even greater than Isaac. Yeshua the Messiah didn't only face the
possibility of death at the hand of his Father, he willingly died as a
sin offering by the will of God (see Isaiah 53:10). Having gone through
the most traumatic event of all time, Yeshua overcame it, so that we, if
we trust him, can be assured that eventually we will overcome our trauma
Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible,
English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a
publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All