From Dr. Pepper to a Big Backyard: A Look at Sacrifice

When we first came to China, we could only find butter in a can.  A CAN.  A small, metal container containing some strange kind of yellowish substance.  I remember thinking our lack of butter was a sacrifice that might be more than I could take.

When you think of sacrifice, maybe your mind jumps to something like canned butter.  Or the lack of Diet Coke.  Or, perhaps, you have been asked to walk a steep, tangled road where the sacrifice that was asked of you was more than you thought your heart could bear.

On November 17, 1944 such a story of sacrifice forever changed my family. 

My dad’s older brother, Peter, was preparing to go to seminary when he was drafted for World War II.  Everyone said he was a remarkable man:   kind, gentle, strong.   He was sent to Germany, and served as a medic in the U.S. Army.

On that day in 1944, my uncle Peter had been helping injured American soldiers in the middle of a battlefield in Germany .  Suddenly he heard a cry for help, a moan of suffering nearby.  He turned, scanning the area for the person behind that moan.  It was a fallen German soldier.  The enemy.

But, Uncle Peter knew the call on his life was not to be an America solider, but a soldier for the King.  So, when he saw that man suffering, he ran over to him, to help bind up his wounds.

While he was doing so, a German sniper shot and killed my uncle Peter.

My uncle sacrificed his life so someone else – even someone wearing the enemy’s uniform – would have a chance to live.

When we think of sacrifice, sometimes we can only equate one word with it: loss. I’m slowly learning, however, that sacrifice can have quite another role in our lives.

Sometimes in living this overseas life we can fall into self-pity as we mentally compile our lists of sacrifices, some large and some small.  No Dr. Pepper.  No pediatrician that speaks English.  No Little League.   Cheese is so expensive.  I don’t have a car.  Homeschooling is hard.   My family is so far away.   There is nowhere to buy clothes —  I will never fit these hips into Chinese pants!

We can throw a pity party.  We can even run away to avoid them.  We can play it safe, make safe choices, and choose not to venture down the road less traveled because it just might ask too much of us.

Or, we can learn to look for the flip side of sacrifice.

Our great God in his infinite mercy has a way of turning things upside down and inside out.  He has a way of taking things we cannot imagine could ever be used for good, and weaving them into a magnificent masterpiece in our lives.

Does that mean sacrifice is easy?  No, there is loss.

But, it does mean sewn into the very fabric of sacrifice is the promise of HOPE.  The promise the sacrifice itself is not nearly the end of the story – and the Great Author has also written the following chapters.

I am slowly learning when I am asked to sacrifice something in my life, I want to do so with expectancy, even in the middle of the pain.  I want to look for what our God is doing in me and through me because of it.

When I weep over the losses in my boys’ lives as they miss birthdays with grandparents or as they feel the sting of friends who leave this side of the world,  I am reminded God is growing their character in ways I could never imagine.  He is doing things in us.

When we wait in long lines of traffic, or at the local grocery store, He takes sacrifice and works patience into us.

When we sacrifice being able to communicate everything in our own language, He teaches us how to laugh at ourselves, how to be more compassionate with our students learning English.  He is building humility and kindness into us.

When my heart aches to sit with my mom and dad over a cup of coffee and have a nice, long conversation, He reminds me all relationships built in Him are built to last. Through the sacrifice of leaving family, He is teaching me to have an eternal perspective.  He is doing things in us.

I want to ask for more faith – to trust him that nothing is wasted if I give it to Him, that He is the ultimate Redeemer of all things, including any hard road I am asked to walk.

After all, He understands sacrifice.

He understands how it hurts.  He understands what it costs.  He understands the obedience required.  He knows the end of the Story is worth the pain it will take to get there.  He knew the joy set before Him was worth the agony of the cross.  He understands sacrifice.

On that hill in Germany in 1944, my uncle sacrificed his life for someone wearing the enemy uniform.

How much more did our great Savior sacrifice for us, while we were yet sinners?   He heard our cries for help, he saw our desperate need for a Savior, and willingly laid down his life…while we were still his enemies, still wearing the enemy uniform.  He sacrificed his life so that we would have the chance to live.

We serve that God.

And He is worth any sacrifice we are asked to make.

Considering the two side of sacrifice, what loss have you experienced? What have you seen God do in you through sacrifice?


  1. morielle April 16, 2014

    Yes, yes, yes! We serve THAT God! The God of sacrifice! Thank you for expressing that so so beautifully. (Also, I showed highlights from the movie ‘Frozen’ in my classes last week without realizing what a wonderful segue that would make for me as I teach them about Easter. The mark of true love is sacrifice 🙂

  2. Renee April 17, 2014

    Morielle — YES!  I like that aspect from the movie “Frozen” as well.  “Better love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   True love is considering others better than yourself…even to the point of ultimate sacrifice.  Thanks!  And have a wonderful Easter!


  3. Elizabeth April 17, 2014

    “Sewn into the very fabric of sacrifice is the promise of hope.” Yes! So glad we serve a big picture God.

  4. Ruth April 17, 2014

    Renee, this was exactly what I needed to read right now.  In fact, I have gone back and read it several times already.  The promise of hope…looking with expectancy to see what God is doing in and through us…”He knows the end of the Story is worth the pain it will take to get there.”  Such good reminders to help us get over that pity party and remember the goodness of God and the incredible sacrifice of love that makes all our sacrifices more than worthwhile.

  5. tami April 17, 2014

    It’s hitting me that while true that we shouldn’t have pity parties, I think that in the past, I have tended to try to gloss over my feelings about the things we are sacrificing.  From now on, I need to directly talk to God about them, and thank Him for taking care of us and reaffirm that the eternal is much longer and much more important than this tiny speck of time that is my life and my children’s lives.   Not until my mom died did I realize my silent, unconscious belief that because I’d sacrificed being near my parents, I believed that I deserved to have them live long and be there for us on skype and every 2nd summer.  😉  Facing these little and big things that we sacrifice, and talking them out with our Heavenly Father will probably help me on a lot of different levels.  One of the songs linked to last week? was so right and sweet when it said, “You’ll be my picket fence and backyard swing”, etc.  It helped me to face a truth…for the first 20 years of my life, I dreamed of having a white picket fence and immaculate green grass and bathroom towels that all completely match each other and the decor.  It is really silly, but if I don’t face even the small stuff, they could all bunch up together into discontent and bitterness that I don’t want!   Thanks for this Easter message during this special week!

    1. Carolyn April 18, 2014

      Oh, Tami, you totally *got* the truth I was trying to convey in that song! I long to live out of that truth every day – that God is my home, and if I have Him I don’t need anything else – but it is *hard*! I think we’re wired, especially as women, to make nests and to want them to be beautiful… I love that verse where Jesus tells His disciples there are many rooms in His Father’s house, and He’s going to prepare a place for them. When I look at my crummy mismatched towels, and my hand-me-down, patched furniture, I just want to go there right now!  But I love the motto from The Nester’s website (she just put out a book, too): “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” I’ve started realizing the atmosphere in my home is so much more important than whether my towels match or not (and I have definitely fretted over my towel too!). If people feel warmly welcomed, are fed something yummy (homemade OR store-bought), and sense the peace of Christ, I feel like my home has been what a home should be – whether it has a perfect picket fence, or not.

  6. Whitney @ Journey Mercies April 18, 2014

    thank you so much for this article – it was just the conviction i needed. if i have a bad day, i often start cataloguing what i’ve given up to live and work in cambodia. i throw a pity party for myself, sometimes even complaining to friends back home because i want them to feel sorry for me, in a twisted way to get encouragement. but i need to take my struggles and challenges to the Lord first, and look for what he is teaching me through them. it’s more difficult that way. but it’s also the only way i’ll achieve any growth through my journey here.

  7. Carolyn April 18, 2014

    I loved this post. The validity of acknowledging and honoring each sacrifice, no matter how “small” – none of them are ever really small – does so much to free us to genuinely grieve in healthy ways, and then be able to move on. I think Listening to and validating each other’s sacrifices is crucial too. Knowing someone else agrees that this is really hard to do without somehow makes the loss easier to bear.

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