Many of you may remember, from the book of Genesis, the account of a man named Jacob who spent an entire night wrestling with God, refusing to let go, ‘unless you bless me.’
It was fitting, for Jacob spent most of his life controlling and manipulating (what we moderns might call, ‘managing’) his way through life.
He deceived his father Isaac, in order to gain leverage over his brother Esau. Later, having been deceived by his father in law named Laban, Jacob deceived his deceiver. Control was Jacob’s end. Deception, leverage, maneuvering and manipulation was his means.
That is, until the day when Jacob’s schemes had been exhausted and God paid him a visit. A wrestling match ensued.
What I love about the account of Jacob’s life is that it gets down to the nub of things. You see, Jacob’s root problem was not deception, manipulation or maneuvering. Those were but symptoms of something deeper.
That ‘something’ was the belief that God wasn’t good, didn’t love him, wasn’t for him....wanted to curse, not bless, him. That is why God had to be forced, rather than asked, for a blessing. Blessings, after all, are never given, only leveraged, when one’s God is begrudging or indifferent.
What we learn from Jacob is that a life characterized by deception, manipulation and maneuvering is symptomatic of a deeply rooted spiritual dysfunction. We manipulate, maneuver and deceive because we have decided, somewhere along the way, that God is neither good nor loving and therefore cannot be trusted to bless us.
WE must do the blessing, thank you, and will resort to almost any means to do so. Control is everything. Our obsession with it plays itself out in our marriages, our driving habits, our parenting, our careers, our relationships, our....everything. We live by power, not providence. We hurry instead of waiting. We plan instead of praying. We speak instead of listening. We grasp instead of receiving.
I remember someone once saying, ‘Every pathology or problem we encounter in life is, at root, theological in nature.’ I think that is right. If I didn’t, I’d probably not be in ministry.
My hunch is that every mistake I have made in life, every injury I have caused to others, every sin I have committed, can be traced back to my unwillingness to believe, at that precise moment, that God is loving and therefore trustworthy.
What about you?
Do you believe that God is loving and trustworthy? If so, why? If not, why not? Does the degree of pain you've suffered in life prevent you from believing in a good, trustworthy God? What do you do when you want to believe God is good and trustworthy but experience seems to betray that? What say you?