Sometimes Obeying God is Hard: Life Lesson from 1 Samuel 15
I softly closed the door to my baby boy’s room after laying him down for a nap and walked into the silence of my house. Alone.
Just months before, I coordinated a global ministry at a megachurch and traveled often—now I coordinate a naptime schedule and jet from sudsy dish water to poop-filled diapers.
I read blogs about the joy of motherhood and the importance of Christian parenting. But I felt the complete opposite. I love my son. I wanted to be with him. So why did motherhood feel so empty?
I talked with my husband and decided to go back to work part-time from home. Maybe that would help.
A couple months into my work-from-home transition, the depression felt heavier, like a lead cloak hanging on my soul. I unloaded my weight before God as I slouched on the edge of my bed.
“I can’t do this anymore, God. I can’t do this anymore, but I don’t know what to do,” I wept.
“To obey is better than sacrifice” popped in my head. So, I googled the verse, grabbed my leather Bible off the nightstand and read 1 Samuel 15:22‒24:
“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He has also rejected you from being king.”
Conviction slapped me awake from my slumber of self-pity. I know these words are from Samuel to Saul in a very different context than new mom depression, but they felt like a fresh rebuke—to me.
Divination? Iniquity? Idolatry? The Spirit underlined the state of my heart.
In fear I asked God, “What am I not obeying you in?”
“Quit your job,” popped in my head. Not an audible voice, but a divine idea that certainly was not mine. I recoiled.
My job? You mean the one thing that gives my life meaning and purpose beyond my breast-feeding schedule and floor mopping?
Yep. That one.
I closed my eyes and cried relief and pain. What was my life, if only housework and baby care? I wanted to change the world, not just bed sheets. At the same time, the inner weight of striving gave way to peace.
To obey is better than sacrifice, but sometimes the sacrifice feels like death—death to dreams or ideas of how I think my life should look.
I chose to obey simply because I wanted the depression to leave.
It did—slowly. And sometimes it seeps back in when I start to think my value corresponds to my performance rather than simply being made in the image of God.
To obey is better than sacrifice, I’ve learned, means following God’s leading in our lives. That’s it.
I Samuel 15
God told Saul through Samuel to completely destroy the Amalekites and everything of theirs. But, Saul revered the opinions of the men with him—rather than God. He brought back some “offerings” to “sacrifice” to God, including the king of the Amalekites.
God takes the kingship away from Saul because obedience is the essential part of sacrifice.
Every Day Obedience
Three kids call me “mom” and my oldest is almost nine. God led me through many hard “obediences”—like moving from my hometown of Los Angeles for my husband’s call to seminary and living on food stamps and Medicaid to make it through. Or the year I home-schooled my oldest while we fought over math sheets at the kitchen table. And just last year our family moved to another new city where I struggle with loneliness—again. But we are right where God wants us, seeking to walk in His will.
“Obedience is better than sacrifice,” but for me, it still hurts sometimes. I enjoy working a paid job. I miss my friends back home. I still want to change the world.
But I’m learning that when I obey, my soul can rest and joy simmers to the top—in the giggle of my toddler, the simplicity of Friday night pizza and a family movie, and the published article in a national magazine. Obedience—even painful obedience—becomes the root of authentic joy.
What does obedience look like in your life?
A single woman I know passionately follows Jesus as a productions assistant in the independent film industry and volunteers at her church. A young mom takes care of her aging grandma and toddler full-time. Some of my friends obey God in His leading to work outside the home—they are nurses, realtors, non-profit executives, and direct-sales entrepreneurs. One of my dear friends home-schools her five children.
For me, right now, obeying God looks like working on my graduate degree and writing after my kid’s bedtime. It also still includes sudsy dish water and changing poop-filled diapers mid-day on a Tuesday. Right now, I’m okay with that.
This post first appeared on HeartStrongFaith.com.
For more writing from Seana, visit SeanaScott.org.