Boxed in

Genesis 32:24-30 “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day . . . So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 

Have you ever been in a situation that you dreaded?  You knew you had to face something in the very near future, and there was no way out, so you were gripped by fear.  Maybe you’re facing something like that right at this very moment.  Thankfully, God has given us examples of this very same thing in His Word. He’s given us examples of people, just like you and me, who feared the future, and He’s showed us how they faced it and what came of it all.  He gave us these examples to help us, because He loves us. 

In the account above, Jacob had been directed by God to return to the land He had promised to Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather.  However, in the process of returning, Jacob knew he would come face to face with Esau.  Earlier in life, Jacob had cheated Esau of both his birthright and his blessing, and we are told that, because of this, Esau hated Jacob and wanted to kill him (Genesis 27:41).  Jacob knew all this, and now he feared for his life. So, what did he do?  First, he prayed. He was very honest with God. He told Him that he was afraid.  He reminded God of God’s promise to him that He was going to give him offspring as the sands of the sea (Genesis 32:9-12).  Yet, in the face of the coming threat, he didn’t see how that would happen. Then he decided to split his large caravan into two, hoping that if Esau attacked one of the two, at least half of his family and his possessions would be saved. Then, he sent elaborate gifts of hundreds of valuable livestock – camels, sheep, goats, and cattle – ahead of him to Esau, in an attempt to possibly appease his brother.  Finally, he sent everyone else in his caravan ahead of him, until he was all alone, left to continue to wrestle with his thoughts.  But it was there that God met him.  When he was all alone, when he’d done all he could think to do, when he had nowhere else to turn, and where he felt totally alone and helpless, that’s when God showed up. 

Have you ever been there?  Are you there right now?  You see, it’s at just such times that God, in His providence, often chooses to work in our lives.  At moments when we are at the end of our rope with nowhere else to turn, we are finally in a position to learn that God is always there.  It is in those moments of despair, moments that are necessary for us to learn things we would never learn otherwise, that God can deal with us as He’s wanted to all along.  It’s there that we can learn, as nowhere else, that we are totally dependent on Him.  We always are, mind you, but often we can’t learn that until everything else has been taken away. 

God, in His awesome wisdom and wonderful love, sometimes has to place us in a position where we are boxed in, with nowhere else to look but up. And it is there that He teaches us that it is in our one-on-one moments with Him that the greatest blessings lie. When we’re at the bottom we can be so very close to the top, but we just can’t see it when we don’t trust Him.  In the end, Jacob was blessed by God.  It says that in Jacob’s wrestling with God he learned of His dependence on Him in a way that only wrestling could teach him.  He was left with a limp, a reminder of his own weakness and God’s mighty strength.  O that we would all learn that same thing, for it is there that we can have true peace in the face of anything that comes our way. 

Paul learned the same lesson as Jacob when God gave him a thorn in his flesh. And it was as he wrestled with that thorn – which God never removed from his life – that Paul learned this great lesson, spoken in these words from God: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  To this Paul could say “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).”  So, long story short, if you’re wrestling with something right now, some fear, some doubt, with nowhere to turn, don’t give up! God likely has you right where He needs you to be to learn that it’s not your strength, but His that sustains and keeps us every moment of every day.

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