Following God’s commands is rarely a cakewalk. Love my neighbor? Has God met the guy next door?

Though we can usually see the value behind God’s more challenging demands, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac is difficult to stomach.

I imagine it was for Abraham, too. Who wouldn’t question the plans of this God, who had promised to bless Abraham with descendants outnumbering the stars in the sky but was now calling him to murder his beloved child? Despite the turmoil Abraham surely felt, his words before the offering overflow with faith: “God himself will provide.”

We often do not know why God brings certain events into our lives. When circumstances are tough to bear or people are hard to love, we might ask whether God has our best interests at heart. That said, most of us can also recall instances that, while painful, led to unforeseen blessings. In Abraham’s case, a demonstrated willingness to follow God at all costs brought new depth to his faith.

How might God be using my burdens to invite me to spiritual growth? Where is God already providing nourishment to help me carry my crosses?

—Brian Harper works in Chicago as a communications specialist for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.