In the Bible there was a man named Jacob. He was a real piece of work. Self-assured and tricky, he always seemed to weasel his way through life. He was cut-throat, conniving, and always seemed to find a way to get the upper hand and come out on top.
If Jacob would have known of social media, I believe his favorite hashtag would have been #Winning.
When We Are Broken
But eventually Jacob met his match, and was shaken to his core.
He was on a journey with his caravan when his scouts alerted him to the fact that his brother, Esau, with whom he had a checked past, was approaching, armed with 400 soldiers.
As Jacob made camp the night before the encounter, he was worried and afraid about a possible armed conflict. He realized he was in a situation where he couldn’t win. Jacob wrestled with God throughout the night. In the midst of wrestling with God, the Lord dislocated Jacob’s hip, and Jacob walked with a limp the rest of his life.
Because of this encounter with God, Jacob was a changed man, and instead of conflict with his brother Esau, or pulling some sort of stunt, Jacob made peace with his brother.
What changed Jacob’s situation? A little bit of brokenness.
Thinking about Jacob, I can’t help but think of self-esteem. It’s good to have a healthy sense of confidence. A confidence that comes from knowing what you’re made of.
But that self-esteem will manifest itself in a cocky arrogance if you aren’t careful. I think for our sense of self-esteem to be healthy, as individuals we must be tested, and put in situations where we know we’ve lost control, where we know we are swimming in the deep end, and way out of our league.
What we need is a humbled confidence. And I don’t believe that humble confidence is something that we will ever learn unless you know what it means to be stretched, emptied, and broken. Until we know what it’s like to be at our wits’ end, and to fail miserably, we’ll always be a bit too self-assured.
God Giving You More Than You Can Handle
It’s often said that, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Such is a cute and well meaning saying. But, I believe it’s mostly said by individuals who don’t know what it’s like to hit rock bottom.
Such a saying simply doesn’t hold up to the witness of Scripture, or the common experience of mankind.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-10, the apostle Paul wrote:
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us…”
The apostle Paul knew what it was like to be “despaired even of life.”
That is, to experience a suffering which is greater than our ability to endure, and more than we feel we can possibly handle on our own.
Many of us know what this sort of suffering is like. We know what it’s like to suffer, and to suffer deeply. To be robbed of the will to live. To suffer loss for which there is no healing. To be shaken our core.
The truth is, God will allow us to be faced with more than we can handle.
God does this because He wants us to hand all of our burdens and cares over to Him. God wants us to see that if we must suffer in this world, we don’t have to suffer alone. He wants us to realize we are not enough in ourselves, and that we are in need of salvation. And not just salvation from sin or hell, but a salvation from all the things that weigh us down in this life, and threaten to destroy us.
Shattered or Shaped
The dark moments of life can either shatter us or shape us.
What comes out of those moments will often boil down to how we choose to receive and respond to our circumstances. Will we choose to self-destruct, fester in our misery, and to be full of self-pity? Or will we allow the things that could possibly destroy us to shape us into the people that God yet wants us to become?
We all want to make sense of our sufferings, and the pains we experience in life. If we must suffer in this life, we don’t want to suffer needlessly. We want our sufferings to be redemptive in nature. That is, if we are going to suffer, we want a payoff for that suffering. We want to cash in, and for the good to outweigh the bad.
And while there are some pains and aches in our soul that I believe we will sometimes experience in this life that have no clear payoff, and nothing of apparent redemptive value, sufferings that can’t be rationalized or explained, I believe such tends to be rare.
We Have Hope
I believe there are tears that will not be wiped away on this side of eternity. There are sufferings we will experience that will forever leave a mark on us. But that is why we must always be filled with hope.
For as Christians, we know upon whom we have set our hope. We don’t merely have wishful and positive thinking about the future events that may or may not work out as we like. Rather, our hope is in the person of Jesus Christ, who promises us a new heaven and Earth, in which sorrow and sadness must forever flee.
And in this life, no matter what pain we may suffer, and no matter how pronounced our limp might be, though we walk with a limp, we will walk. And we will do that because of the hope that we ultimately have in Jesus Christ.