In Genesis 25:23, God gives the promise concerning Jacob and his older brother, Esau, before they were even born: “The older shall serve the younger.” God’s promise was there from the beginning.
But despite that fact, Jacob lived his life trying to fulfill the promise through his own scheming and clever plans. What a man he was! He was bold enough and clever enough to steal his brother’s birthright and trick his father into blessing him instead of Esau.
Because of the tension now between him and his brother, Jacob fled to his uncle Laban’s house for safety. While en route, he had a dream in which he saw the angels ascending and descending. God promised to make Jacob’s descendants great and to bless him and bring him back to his homeland. But still, Jacob wanted to do things his own way. He bargained with God, saying, “If you’ll let me just continue in the way I am going and keep me safe and feed me, then when I come back I will build a temple for You. I will give tithes” (paraphrase, see Genesis 28:20–22).
He still would not give up his own ways. He still would not break.
When he finally reached Laban’s house, he soon discovered his uncle was a man twice as conniving as himself. The medicine Jacob had dished out to his brother and his father was now returned to him a hundredfold. For 14 years he labored under his uncle, still scheming and planning to increase his wealth in his own way. God was trying to use Laban to break Jacob, but still he resisted.
Sick and tired of living with Laban, Jacob decided it was time to leave. So with all his livestock, his wife and children, he ran from his uncle, planning to return home.
While on his way, he heard that Esau was coming out to meet them. Afraid of what Esau’s reaction might be, Jacob, still scheming and relying on his own ways, sent his servants, livestock, wives and children ahead of himself to meet Esau. He reasoned that if they got killed, at least he would still be safe. He was still looking after his own interests. He was still unwilling to give everything to God and let Him work it out. He still would not surrender.
Finally, after 20 years of running in his own strength, in his own cleverness, in his own scheming and planning and plotting, all by himself and out in the desert, he met God.
Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:24–28).
How can anyone wrestle with God and win? It reminds me of when my son, Daniel, was a little boy. I used to wrestle with him, and he would win every match.
This seems to be how God does it with us. He lets us win, but not the way we want to win. After wrestling with God, Jacob was not the same. He became a cripple; from then on he walked with a limp. But he won that night because he admitted who he was—Jacob, meaning schemer and deceiver—and finally let God break him.
Once a friend of mine called from overseas, dealing with a situation in which he was trying to work things out with his own planning and scheming, not realizing God was trying to break him.
Troubled by a situation in which he was being taken advantage of, my friend, according to the law, could rightfully press charges and bring justice to his situation.
When I heard him leaning toward this route . . . I said. “Your safety is not in any of these things. It is in the Lord. Why must you fight for your rights? . . . . .”
This is a modern-day example of how we can delay the Lord’s work of brokenness in our lives by our own planning and scheming. Thank God my friend . . . used this situation as an opportunity to walk in humility and let the Lord be his defender.
In each of our lives, the Lord brings us Labans and difficult circumstances—either financial setbacks, failures, sickness, and so on—to break us. Through these things, God is continually trying to break us—not to destroy us, but to bless us. Only after the cross comes the resurrection. Only after the cross comes glory.
The work of brokenness is a beautiful thing. It causes our lives to become the sweet fragrance before God that it was intended to be. But we can also delay the work of brokenness by not realizing that God is the One working behind the difficult scenes of our lives.
When God brings pressure from circumstances, people or whatever else, many live in total darkness, not recognizing that God is at work. We blame our circumstances, people, our past and everything around us. We are blind to the fact that God is allowing these things.
This was the case with Jonah. He was a clever individual. He ran from God, refusing to preach to the people who were killing his countrymen. Yet when the storm came that tossed him into the belly of the fish, he began to realize God’s hand in his circumstances. Sitting in the belly of the fish, Jonah acknowledged that God was playing a major role in his situation—“For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me” (Jonah 2:3, emphasis added).
What about you and the struggles and problems you face? I think it would be good to stop blaming circumstances and people and say, “Lord, You are allowing this for a purpose.” All things work together for our good so we may become like Jesus (see Romans 8:28–29). When we truly believe this we can rest, knowing that God is the One orchestrating the events of our lives. It is His plan, and we learn to bend our neck and receive His yoke.
This causes us to become less frustrated with circumstances and people and everything else. When we look up and recognize that He is behind it all, His grace and peace enter our lives.
. . . I often have to pause, look up and remember God is the One working behind the scenes. I say to myself, “He is able to work all things out for good. I just need to submit to Him and His ways. I can rest.”
Excerpted from The Beauty of Christ through Brokenness by KP Yohannan. Copyright © 2004 by KP Yohannan. (Carrollton, TX: GFA Books).
Dr. KP Yohannan, founder and international director of the nonprofit organization Gospel for Asia, has written more than 200 books, including Revolution in World Missions, an international bestseller with more than 4 million copies in print. He and his wife, Gisela, have two grown children, Daniel and Sarah, who both serve the Lord with their families.
Gospel for Asia is a nonprofit organization serving the “least of these” in Asia since its beginning in 1979, often in places where no one else is serving. Gospel for Asia supports national workers who are serving as the hands and feet of Christ by ministering to people’s needs so they can understand the love of God for them for the first time. Gospel for Asia is engaged in dozens of projects, such as caring for poor children, slum dwellers and widows and orphans; providing clean water by funding wells; supporting medical missions; and meeting the needs of those in leprosy colonies. Through Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope Program, tens of thousands of children are being rescued from the generational curses of poverty and hopelessness.
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