There was a bumper sticker quote that I subscribed to in early High School. This read, “Living for Christ. No Regrets.” I wanted to walk boldly into every step God was leading me. My desire was to live by my faith and not by what just came easily.
As I ventured out on my own, I realized how difficult that really was. Adulting is hard! Daily, there are countless decisions, worries, obligations, and to-dos. There are so many things I want to accomplish for the day that will make a difference for tomorrow. I want to build a life that makes an impact on those around me. I don’t want any regrets.
Then come the worry and fears that clog my mind and keep me from stepping forward. What if I fail? What if I succeed? Is that really God calling me to do this? What will people think? I’m not smart enough for that. And so on…
These juxtaposed feelings seem to be at constant battle in my mind. I want to bold and adventurous in God’s life for me, but I worry that it could never happen or that I’m not enough of that I would take the wrong step. Jacob experiences a physical fight between himself and God following a bout of fear. Let’s see what happens.
S – Scripture: Genesis 32-34
- 32:1-2 – “As Jacob started on his way again, angels of God came to meet him. When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, ‘This is God’s camp!’ So he named the place Mahanaim.”
- 32:9-12 – “Then Jacob prayed, ‘O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac–O LORD, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! O LORD, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore–too many to count.'”
- 32:26 – “Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.'”
- 32:30 – “Jacob named the place Peniel (which means ‘face of God’), for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.'”
- 33:4 – “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.”
- 33:11 – “‘Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.’ And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.”
- 34:13 – “But since Shechem had defiled their sister, Dinah, Jacob’s sons responded deceitfully to Shechem and his father, Hamor.”
- 34:30-31 – “Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land–among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!’ ‘But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?’ they retorted angrily.”
O – Observation:
- God shows that he is with Jacob as he sets out.
- Jacob begins to worry and fear that Esau will attack and kill him and his family.
- He recalls God’s promise, humbles himself, admitting that he is not worthy of such a gift, but asks God to keep his covenant.
- God visits Jacob at night and wrestles with him. Possibly a battle to see if Jacob will stand up and fight for his life and all that God has promised, or give in because of fear?
- God does bless him because he has persevered through the trials of both God and men. (It makes me think of John 16:33.) The hip injury reminds me of the thorn in Paul’s side as a reminder for humility. This could be for the same reason.
- Esau greets Jacob with love, better than Jacob could’ve imagined I’m sure. God answered his prayer to protect him. All that worry and God had it under control.
- Jacob wants to bless Esau with the gifts that he has earned. He is so generous and wants to bless others with his wealth.
A – Application:
I love that God reassures Jacob that he is with him. It’s like he knows what’s about to happen and that Jacob will really need to know that he is still there protecting him and the covenant. Immediately after, Jacob gets news that his brother, Esau, wants to meet up.
If you recall how Jacob left, fleeing to his Uncle’s house because Esau was threatening to kill him. Jacob had just tricked Isaac and took Esau’s blessing of the firstborn, as well as the birthright. Esau was left with nothing because of Jacob. Even twenty years later, I would probably be afraid to meet up with someone I had left on such bad terms.
So we see Jacob afraid that all will soon be lost. All that he has worked for and the promise of flourishing into a great nation will be destroyed at the hand of his brother. So Jacob first prays. He recalls God’s promise, puts himself in a place of humility, a pleads that God will keep his end of the covenant. That night, he is alone, and God comes down and wrestles with him.
I can’t help but think that this is not just wrestling match for the fun of it. Here, Jacob is sick with worry and what does God ask of him? To fight. Would Jacob become paralyzed in fear and give up? Or would he persevere and go till the end. He does that latter and God blesses him. Jacob has proven to be a fighter for what God has promised him. He won’t give up until he gets it.
This passage challenges me. There are a lot of times where I get into the mindset that God’s path will be the easiest or most obvious. Sometimes it is, but a lot of the times (I’m finding in adulthood), that many of God’s plans still require some effort on my part. I can’t pray for God to grant me a great group of friends and just sit at home by myself. I can’t expect someone to just walk up to my door and become instant friends with me (unless I just want to be friends with the Fed-Ex person). I need to act. I need to get out there and make some opportunities happen. I need God to know that I am willing to actually take a step and that allows him to move and work.
In regards to a career, I still need to work sometimes to become the best in my field and connect with others to network and grow. This allows God to open up pathways for me to reach more people and fulfill his purpose for my life and his kingdom. I need to stand up and fight, day in and day out, for my dreams and goals of making an impact.
One of my greatest motivators to keep working and building is the notion that someone out there needs me to keep going. Even if it is just one person in the whole world that benefits from my small contribution, that’s worth it. That is worth overcoming the worries and fears that flood my mind while I try to take steps of faith.
It also humbles me to know that I can’t do anything without Christ as my King. Yes, I must take steps, but God is the Master and Author of my life. He guides me and opens the doors for me to make a difference.
What fears and worries are you wrestling with today? What step is God asking you to take? What dream is he asking you to fight for and not give in to those fears?
Fear of a step, I believe, means that it really means something. It’s a big deal and shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, in most cases, once I strip the emotions away, it’s no longer a should I or could I, but an act of obedience. I have to tell myself, okay, either I’m going to trust God and go for it, or I’m going to sit here and question until the next day, then the next, then the next, and so on.
Don’t wait! Take a step, no matter how big or small, today. A tiny step is still progress and it allows God to move. Fight for your dreams with God as your guide.
P – Prayer:
Thank you for this story of Jacob and his fight and perseverance for his dreams and promises. I don’t want to leave my life to chance, I want to leave it up to you. I want to follow where you lead me. I want to rely on your resources and power to build and amazing life of impact. Open those doors for me. Give me courage to step out in faith, despite the fear sometimes. You are so great. I want to do great things for your kingdom. Lead me to the people and places that need me most. Amen.