Have you felt like that? Life already feels overwhelming when some other disaster happens. Recently on separate occasions, two close friends chose exactly those words when confiding with me about their experiences. Their already fragile hearts now felt completely broken.
When comforting others we sometimes say, “The Lord will never give you more than you can handle.” But now, in these situations, that sounded hollow and trite. It had been more than they could handle! I found myself asking, “What is going on here Lord?”
The story of Jacob at Peniel seems a good place to turn for answers (Gen 32:22-32). Jacob faced a reunion with his angry, estranged sibling Esau, who he had swindled out of his birthright. Now, Jacob’s whole family and accumulated wealth were at stake.
Facing an enemy too strong for him had rightly caused Jacob to turn to God for help and in verses, 9-12 Jacob’s penitent prayer demonstrates commendable growth in humility. Surely, considering his repentance, God would sweep in and deliver Jacob from harm? But in a plot twist, a mysterious man turns up and wrestles Jacob all night, only ending when Jacob is totally overpowered and broken.
I find myself sympathising with Jacob. On the eve of this critical life event, I’m thinking, “That’s the last thing he needs!” But was it?
Hindsight teaches that God was working out a greater redemptive purpose for Jacob’s life than simply appeasing Esau’s wrath. It is no coincidence that this event took place on the border of the Promised Land, as Jacob made his journey back home. This was the moment when Jacob had to go back to school! Old habits of misplaced trust in his own strength and deception needed to be left behind if he were to receive God’s promised blessing. Jacob needed to learn the meek, not the sneak, inherits the earth! (Matthew 5:5).
Does it shock you that the disabler was no enemy but rather a pre-incarnate manifestation of God (see Hosea 12:4), the very One committed to blessing Jacob? God’s strange blessing that day meant the anxious weakling had to become even weaker so he might be positioned for the greatest blessing; more of God Himself. The wrestling match turned out to be exactly the thing Jacob needed!
God employs this same strategy with many others throughout His redemptive story, all pointing towards the cross where our ultimate blessing comes out of Christ’s ultimate weakness. Paul’s life modelled this same Gospel paradox; “when I am weak then I am strong!” 2 Corinthians 12:10. Our practical theology needs to make room for a God Who wrestles, or we might find ourselves inadvertently opposing God in His goal to bless.
Let’s ask ourselves, where do I feel weak? Where does my Christian community feel weak? Can we see this as a doorway to God’s blessing? These moments just might be an invitation to deeper encounters with God Himself, our highest Blessing and greatest Inheritance!
Almighty God, we stand with Jacob in total weakness and dependency. Thank You for the mysterious ways You employ to break us of our own strength and independence. In these moments of being overwhelmed beyond what we can handle, we recognise Your grace at work to humble us, so we might receive the blessing of more of You!
So, with new boldness in our weakness we cry out with Jacob, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” Amen.