February 13, 2011

Surrender, Jacob-style

Genesis 32:24-28

The man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Genesis 32:26


Jacob was defeated, but he wouldn’t just give up. He wanted something in return—a blessing.

What a typical Jacob response: always trying to get something from someone. It’s pretty nervy to think of demanding a blessing from someone who has just gotten the best of you.

Yet in Jacob’s demand we can hear hints of something that was new for him. Jacob wasn’t used to negotiating from a position of total defeat. By this point Jacob knew there was no hope of scrambling his way out of this problem. After a lifetime of thinking that he had to rely on his own wits, he was finally forced to acknowledge his limits. Pinned to the ground, he found himself in the awkward position of having no more options. All he could do was ask for help.

Have you ever been in that position? Flattened by circumstances you didn’t see coming, and with no option left but to cry out to God for help? Most recovery groups are filled with people who refused to ask for help until their situations became desperate. Jacob was at that point. He knew earlier that he could pray to God (32:912), but then he still tried doing things his own way (see 32:20).

This was different for Jacob. And it made him a different person who needed a different name: Israel, the “God-wrestler.” Sometimes God needs to break us down before he can bring us back up. Has he ever done that to you?

Lord, we know you are in control of our lives. Help us to struggle with but not against you. Amen.

About the author — Ron Vanderwell

Ron Vanderwell recently became the senior pastor of New Life Church in New Lenox, Illinois. He has been a pastor for 22 years, serving as a church planter for the previous 12 years at The Gathering in Sacramento, California, and before that as a pastor in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ron and his wife, Deb, have three sons: John, Adam, and Jake. Ron shares more of his reflections on “squinting” for God in his blog at www.squintforgod.com.

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