Today on the Intentional Lent Series, Rachel Smith shares that a “sacrifice of praise” means more than simply giving something up — it means giving Him our whole selves.
Guest Post by Rachel Smith:
What are you giving up for Lent?”
It was an honest question from a beautiful friend, and one she asked in earnest innocence, unaware of my hardened heart in this season.
I took a deep breath and said to myself, “It’s ok. She doesn’t know what she’s asking.”
In the moment, I did everything I could to not travel back to a decade ago in my mind’s eye, when I offered my most difficult sacrifice to the Lord.
“Maybe my personal social media?” I answered uncertainty since part of my job for our church involved regularly being on social media.
That answer seemed to satisfy her and I got out of another awkward conversation about why Lent, and sacrifices specifically, are such a tender topic.
You see, for as long as I could remember I had wanted to grow our family through the process of adoption. My husband and I prayed, wholly surrendered to the Lord and felt like He gave us the green light. So we moved forward in faith. And once, we got so close, but ended up heartbroken with an empty car seat on a beautiful, sunny Thursday afternoon almost ten years ago, during the season of Lent.
The newborn infant we hoped to add to our family instead laid in a hospital, facing an incredibly difficult (and potentially dangerous) life. I found it onerous to comprehend that God would say no to my one request regarding adoption: that God wouldn’t ask me to meet a baby I couldn’t call my own. Yet that’s exactly what happened. Of course, I knew that I had no right to that sweet newborn and could find no fault with the birth mother; she was building the best life she could for her baby, and I left with only compassion and prayers for her.
Yet, planning for a newborn and having to face an empty nursery left me feeling vacant and sad. Had we misunderstood God when we planned to adopt? And, why had He said no to my one prayer? This idea of misunderstanding God’s direction left me feeling more than sad; I felt hopeless.
We’ve all been there. Maybe adoption isn’t your pain, but we’ve all faced a time in life in which we’ve begged and pleaded for one thing, and God has answered, “No.” We thought we heard His voice, received words of affirmation, prayed, maybe even fasted for confirmation. Why would God turn us away after we fought so hard to hear and follow Him? To do something we felt so sure He wanted us to do?
The following Sunday, I woke early, got ready for church, and headed out before my family. In the rush of things at the hospital, I had forgotten to find a replacement for leading worship as a backup vocalist. I could have called the worship pastor and said I was ill, but something compelled me to get up and go anyway.
I walked to the sound booth to retrieve my microphone, looked up at the sound engineer (the husband of a good friend of mine who knew what our lives looked like the last week), and asked him to mute my microphone that day. He solemnly nodded after confirming that I was on background vocals with four other females, all of whom would be more than capable of covering my part. I slowly trudged up to the stage and rehearsed, then waited for the service to begin.
I cannot explain what happened that day; I only know that I stood in front of my church family of almost 3,000 members and declared what I so desperately didn’t want to be true. I declared that God was good, even though my feelings said he wasn’t. And on that day, I understood Hebrews 13:15, which calls us to offer a sacrifice of praise, more than ever before. My praise to God was a sacrifice; it was costly. I bore my heart and soul to Him and He gently, yet firmly, provided a negative answer to one of my most vulnerable pleas to Him. That Sunday morning, I fully understood that a sacrifice of praise is more than just offering words; I surrendered to God my heart, my soul, my every feeling of desire and uncertainty, trusting Him that His way, and that He Himself, was better than what I wanted, or even better than what I thought He wanted of me.
I know what Lent is about; that we sacrifice something in order to honor what Jesus sacrificed for us. And maybe this year has been terrible and all you’re able to give is something like chocolate. Maybe wine is something monumental for you to give up. Maybe screen time feels like a huge sacrifice because we’ve all used it as a crutch for the past two years and you’re finally breaking free. In this area, when your heart is to love God more during these weeks leading up to Easter, I do think the “you do you” mantra stands.
Maybe, though, you appreciate deep in your soul that giving up social media, chocolate, wine, or even something bigger still falls short. Perhaps you, like me, feel that abstaining from things during this specific season is superficial. Perhaps you are feeling like the most vulnerable thing to offer is exactly what you’re holding on to so tightly. Maybe the thing you’re so terrified to give is…you. After all, anything less can feel superficial when Jesus gave nothing less than Himself to us.
If you’re ready to go deep and the scariest thing you can offer the Lord is your feelings, be brave, dear sister. God is ready and able to meet you. It is my prayer that next Sunday you’ll understand the sacrifice of praise like never before.
Rachel is a full-time student at Dallas Theological Seminary pursuing her Master’s Degree in Christian Education. Rachel is a recovering high school math teacher, curriculum writer, and principal who is passionate about thought-provoking curriculum, specifically within the church. Rachel lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with her husband, Justin, and their three children. You can find Rachel on RachelBSmith.com or on Instagram