In this season, I’ve been thinking about the story of Jacob. I think a lot of us can relate to his story—what he faced, we are facing; what he went through, we are going through. What God brought him into, He is about to bring us into as well.
Jacob never had a good relationship with his brother, Esau. Esau was the older brother. The favored of the father. He was the obvious alpha.
Jacob wanted his dad to bless him, so he pretended to be Esau and got blessed. Jacob was not comfortable in his own skin—I mean, his name means “deceiver.”
When we don’t know who we are, we are trying to be someone else.
We want to be like someone who is accepted and affirmed because we want to be accepted. A lot of us can think of someone who we think is “acceptable,” and we try to be like him, her, or them.
Jacob was so deprived of affirmation that he was willing to lie to get it. He didn’t think he was blessed just for who he was. The story goes that Jacob stole the blessing that was to go to the older brother, and his old brother was very upset with him.
Fast forward a few years …
In Genesis 32, Jacob hears that his brother is coming toward him with 400 men. That sounds like someone is coming to rumble. Jacob is terrified. He’s not even a fighter. Scared for his life.
Are there some people you don’t want to see anymore? Because you are not exactly proud of how you dealt with them? Jacob did not want to see his brother and was not proud of stealing his brother’s blessing.
Jacob really believes his brother is going to kill him and his family. Jacob had two wives and a lot of kids, so he divided them up into two groups. If Esau attacks one group, the other group can be spared. He is scared for his life and expecting to lose what was important to him.
However, to his credit, when he was met with fear and anxiety, he withdrew and engaged God.
He could have just numbed out, but that doesn’t really change anything. He went to God and asked God to 1) save and deliver him, but also, 2) held on to the positive words that he believed were spoken to him.
“Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I’m afraid he will come and kill all of us, including women and children. You said to me, ‘I will certainly prosper you and make your offspring as innumerable as the sand of the sea.’” So he spent the night there. (Genesis 32:11-12 TPT)
What do you believe God has spoke to you in the past?
That’s what we need to hold on to, in crisis. Because the crisis speaks. Anxiety screams. Yet, what did God say?
A scripture I have been holding on to is that when you have born fruit, you will be pruned for greater fruitfulness.
“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:2 NIV)
I believe there has been good fruit in my walk with God, and therefore he will prune me and our ministry; however, it is ultimately for greater fruitfulness, not destruction.
Jacob was alone again as he sent away his wives and kids—sometimes the greatest breakthroughs happen when we are alone.
He found himself wrestling with someone in the dark. Wrestling in the dark is not fun. They are rolling around in the dirt. You don’t always know what is happening in the dark. For people who don’t fully accept themselves, being left alone is an internal wrestling match. Yet, in solitude, not in distraction, we will find God. Now, like Jacob, the first few hours may be restless. But if we stay with it, in quiet solitude, we will find God. When was the last time you wrestled in prayer, with distractions and deadness and emptiness … until you found God? In other words, when was the last time you got alone until you weren’t alone anymore?
It was close to daybreak, and Jacob realized that the one who came to wrestle with Him was God. And he asked God to bless him, and that he would not let go.
Here, God does a few things in him:
1. God popped Jacob’s hip so he couldn’t rely on his own strength and that he would walk with a limp (a brokenness and humility).
2. Before God blessed him, God wanted him to say his name. God didn’t want him to fake it, but more admit who he had been and how he had been. And God wouldn’t respond with rejection, rather acceptance and blessing. That is called grace.
3. After Jacob said his name, God replied “Not anymore,” (Genesis 32:28 TPT) and gave him a new name. God was saying, “I have a new name for you. I don’t see you as others do. What people have been calling you is not who you are. You are someone better. You are a prince with God.” A prince has authority and class. A prince doesn’t need to lie. A prince doesn’t need to strive. A prince just needs to be. Also, there were clear implication that God saw Jacob as an overcomer.
Jacob came out of that experience saying, “I have seen God face-to-face, and my life has been spared!” (Genesis 32:30)
When we have had a fresh encounter with God and His heart for us—how he sees us, what he says about us, how His perception of us is different from people’s opinions of us—we come out ready to face anything!
What’s more important than getting blessing and affirmation from others is getting it directly from God. When you get it from God, you can face anyone or anything.
Jacob ended up facing his brother, walking over with a limp. There was a beautiful reconciliation with his brother. Those who have really connected with God become peacemakers, rather than contentious.
When we seek God, He will do a work within us (as he did for Jacob) and He will go before us and work out all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
Here are a few lessons we can learn from Jacob that will allow us to move from fearfulness to fearlessness:
1. He went back to what He believed God revealed to him before.
2. He took time to get alone with God and fought through the restless hours until he had his encounter.
3. He experienced God’s acceptance and affirmation and was finally able to see himself through His eyes.
That gave him the courage to face his greatest mistakes and biggest fears.