Have you ever felt frustrated that despite your best efforts, you just can't seem to get ahead? Life feels constantly hard--like there's not enough room or resource for you to thrive. Isaac's life reminds us that even in the midst of opposition and strife, God is able to bring us into a spacious place, satisfying both our needs and our desires.
As Abraham’s promised heir, you might expect a significant amount of text in Genesis dedicated to Isaac’s story, and yet we find very little. In many ways, his story mirrors Abraham’s: a famine in the land, food and water in short supply, increased wealth through the Lord’s blessing (v.12), lying about his wife being his sister, and now, insufficient room in his current location (v.16).
He has no place, no space, and no water.
In an agrarian culture like Isaac’s, the nomadic lifestyle of moving to find appropriate pasture and water for your flocks was expected. Water was life. But the Philistines’ envy at Isaac’s wealth means all the wells his father had dug are now spitefully blocked up. So, he unexpectedly must move and set about the hard work of reopening the wells. No sooner do Isaac’s servants discover fresh water for his flocks, however, than fallout with the nearby Gerar herders results in these wells being unavailable, too, and again, Isaac is forced to move on and dig new ones. If that wasn’t frustrating enough, there is further trouble, and he must relocate and dig again.
Isaac goes from one location to the next, trying to find water—trying to find life—only to be met repeatedly with opposition, jealousy, and unkindness.
It would be natural for Isaac to want to demand that the Philistines move on and give back the wells that he is entitled to, to tell the herders to dig their own wells. But just as Isaac learned unhelpful traits from his father, he also learned the beauty of laying down his rights and choosing instead to trust God.
Isaac doesn't fixate on whether the opposition he faces is just. He doesn't whinge at the unfairness of having wells stolen from him during a famine. He doesn't refuse to dig more wells when the first few don't work out. He simply continues to trust God and faithfully does the next right thing.
Eventually, Isaac’s resolute faithfulness pays off. He discovers fresh water and declares, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land” (v.22). God has made room—enlarged, expanded, and extended the space—for Isaac and his family to rest. He has brought them into a “spacious place” (Psalm 18:19), and He wants to do the same for us.
My own life often reflects Isaac’s: desperate to find my own space in the crowd, squashed under the demands of daily living, feeling crushed when others are purposefully spiteful. All too frequently, I hunt for refreshment in the wrong places. Constantly looking to the next thing to give me life, I keep digging, but there’s no water.
In parched and weary seasons, when we’re looking at all the holes in our lives that are failing to provide the life-giving drink we need, or when all we see is opposition and oppression, it can be easy to wonder where God is in our wandering. But His promise to Isaac remains the same for us: “I will be with you and will bless you” (Genesis 26:3).
It is as we model our lives after Isaac’s in faithfully trusting God through repetitive disappointments and setbacks that we discover the space, place, and living water we crave is found only in Him.
The Father calls us from our empty wells, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1); Jesus whispers, “If only you knew, the water I give means you’ll never thirst again” (John 4:10-14); and the Spirit beckons, “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17b).
This well will never run dry.
What does a ‘spacious place’ look like for you? Bring this desire before the Father and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what the ‘next right thing’ is for you to do to partner with Him in moving into this space.