That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Jacob’s name can mean “cheat” or “grabber,” and he lived up to his name. He was manipulative, deceptive, and aggressive — not someone you’d likely nominate for a leadership position in your church. Jacob was a seriously flawed person growing up in a dysfunctional family. He seemed to be either getting into trouble, just getting out of it, or about to make some more.9
Jacob’s story is so universal because it is so personal. Throughout his life, Jacob was stubborn and unwilling to trust anyone — even God. It was at the Jabbok brook that Jacob was finally broken by God and radically transformed. He was given a new name and a new freedom to live as God originally intended. This came, however, at the price of a permanent limp that rendered him helpless and desperate to cling to God. And it is out of this weak place of dependence that Jacob became a nation (Israel) that would bless the world.
In the same way, God sometimes wounds us in our journey with him in order to move us out of an unhealthy, “tip of the iceberg” spirituality to one that truly transforms us from the inside out. When these wounds come, we can deny them, cover them, get angry with God, blame others, or like Jacob we can cling desperately to God.
Question to Consider
In what way(s) has God put your life or plans “out of joint” so that you might depend on him?
Father, I relate to Jacob in striving, manipulating, scheming, denying, and spinning half- truths to those around me in order to get my way. At times, I too find myself serving you in order to get something from you. Lord, I invite you to teach me to live in dependence on you. Help me to rest and be still in your love alone. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day: A 40-Day Journey with the Daily Office (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014).
We have just released a new Bible Study on the topic of Emotionally Healthy Discipleship.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
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Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.