If you are alive in the year 2020 then your hand has to go up when asked the question, “Have you ever been right in the middle of an unexpected turn of events?” 2020 has knocked the majority of people off balance.
The thing is, this is not a phenomenon exclusive to the year 2020 – it’s part of the human journey. Uncertainty is always right around the corner. In light of quantum physics, it appears the universe exists in a state of pure potential until we decide to collapse it. So what’s our response when the report is unfavorable, when the world goes into quarantine, when cities are on fire, when the career isn’t working out, and when business isn’t taking off like we thought it would? Do we resist the waves crashing against the helm of our ship, or do we embrace the wave believing that the wave can be our direct ticket into the deeper things of God?
In this article I’ll be using the story of Jacob as an example for us to learn from. Jacob’s story is one that can teach us how to live when our faith is being tested and it seems like there is nothing but chaos. Here’s an excerpt of his story from Genesis 32.22-30:
During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions. V.24-But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacobs’ hip out of joint. The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.” Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go until you bless me.” V.27- The man said, “What’s your name?” He answered, “Jacob.” The man said, Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel; because you’ve wrestled with God and come through….and then, right then and there, he blessed Jacob. V.30-Jacob named the place Peniel because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story.”
Jacob's Wilderness Wanderings
Jacob seems to spend a lot of time in the hostile terrain of the wild, and within that we can find some important lessons that can help us on our journey as we navigate through a time in history that feels very much like the wild. Jacob can relate. If you aren’t familiar with Jacob’s journey…no problem, let me catch you up to speed.
Jacob spent the last 20 years of his life working for an unfair man named Laban. Jacob was working to win Labans’ stunningly, beautiful, younger daughter’s hand in marriage.
Twenty years waiting for what was promised to him.
Twenty years of holding onto hope.
Originally, the deal that Laban brokered with Jacob was, “If you work for me for seven years, I’ll give you my baby girl Rachel to marry.” But, when Jacob’s seven years of servant labor had ended, and the day arrived for Jacob to claim his prize. He wakes in the morning following the marriage consummation, proceeds to wipe the sleep out of his eyes, expecting to wake up to his dream girl named Rachel, but instead wakes up to a nightmare…and her name is Leah.
There was no flawless Rachel waiting for Jacob, there was no cute messy morning hair to make fun of. There were most definitely no newlywed giggles coming from the honeymoon suite that morning.
Just fear, confusion, anger, pain, and betrayal. Laban had tricked Jacob. In the middle of the night Laban sends his less attractive, older daughter Leah to be with Jacob instead. Jacob wakes up to find his reality looking vastly different than what he thought it was going to look like.
What are you gonna do now Jacob? Now that you’re disoriented and discouraged, what do we do with that?
Let’s look deeper into the timeless wisdom of God’s word to find some guidance when it comes to that question. Here’s an excerpt from James 1.2-4:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work. So you come mature, well-developed, and not deficient in any way.
I love these few verses in the book of James because we get clear direction on how to help us navigate life’s wild seasons.
We can allow the wilderness that feels like it’s overwhelming, to work for us.
Our pain becomes a radical process of becoming more like Jesus.
Don’t try to get out of the desert, try to get as much out of the desert as you can.
Laban tricked Jacob, but while Laban saw an opportunity for deception God saw an opportunity for destiny. There’s something significant God wants to develop in us when life takes us off the beaten path and into the remote places of loneliness, disappointment, frustration, or whatever your wilderness reality may look like.
If we can see through our wilderness clearly…we are about to see God.
Let it do its work!
Lesson From Jacob's Journey
I want to pull a quick lesson from Jacob’s journey that helped position him to encounter wonder in the wild.
And I think this lesson will help position us for the same.
Jacob had to slow down. Genesis 32.22-24 says:
During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, and eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok, He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions. V.24-But Jacob stayed behind by himself…
After a grueling 14 years of back-breaking labor, Jacob finally pays for the woman of his dreams; Rachel. At this point Jacob has to be thinking, “finally, things are coming around!”
“Maybe I can finally catch my breath.”
“Maybe I’ve finally caught a break.”
“Maybe things are finally looking up.”
Only to turn around to find his disgruntled brother Esau mean-mugging him from across the room.
Just when things were finally starting to look up…we turn around and 2020 is waiting to greet us with a global pandemic, racial tension, political unrest, major division, and economic instability. You turn around and there’s Esau, ready to give you the big brother beat down.
Whatever your viewpoint is on these issues, I think there is one thing we can all agree on…this year has been a LOT! There is so much going on, it’s hard to not feel the weight of it all, and it’s a challenge to not carry the burden and feel the added pressure.
How do we process?
How do we decompress?
How do we protect ourselves so this season doesn’t sabotage our soul?
These are all questions we must ask ourselves so we can come out at our best.
Jacob Returns Home
So what’s Jacob do? Let’s grab some biblical wisdom again with Lamentations 2.28-30:
When life gets heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow before God. Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from the trouble, take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst.
Go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow before God.
Amid the whirlwind that Jacob has been in for the last 14 plus years, the thing that we find Jacob doing next is a really big deal! Jacob has to take a second and slow down for the sake of his soul, or the wild is going to wear him out.
Jacob stayed behind by himself…
This is a lost art in our fast-paced, digitally charged media-driven culture. We are all about performance, results, producing, and doing. We live in a time where people wear busy like a badge of honor, but being busy will bury us!
There’s always going to be a new, and alarming headline.
There’s never going to be enough hours in the day.
There’s never going to be enough margin.
There’s always going to be something waiting in the wings to pull us in another direction.
In the ever-increasing busyness that the culture wants us to buy into, if we allow ourselves to be sucked into the rat-race of a hurried rhythm of life, it will suck the life right out of us. It will create space between us and what is most important.
This is what put Jacob into a position to experience a breakthrough with God, a breakthrough that would change him forever.
He slowed down.
He got quiet.
He pushed pause.
He positioned his heart.
He took a time out.
He leaned into God
He found some margin.
When life gets heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow before God. Wait for hope to appear.
God loves to meet us in the wilderness of our lives, as long as we’ll stop long enough to recognize Him in the midst of it.
Do your soul a favour my friends and take some time to slow down. It just may be all you need – just like Jacob.
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