Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by life that you physically could not go on? Many characters in the Bible felt that way too. Today we will see how Jacob dealt with this issue.
Jacob’s story is one of never-ending struggles. At one point in his life, he was to meet his brother Esau (whose birthright he stole!). Anxious for his very life, Jacob sent gifts across the River Jabbok in hopes of appeasing his brother. Physically exhausted, alone in the desert wilderness, and facing possible death, he realized that he was powerless to control his fate. He collapsed into a deep sleep on the riverbank. But instead of finding peace in sleep, this was when his real struggle began. That night, an angelic stranger visited Jacob. They wrestled through the night until daybreak, at which point the stranger crippled Jacob with a blow to his hip. As the new day dawned, Jacob asked for a blessing before he would let the man go. Jacob, whose name meant “he grasps the heel”—which is a Hebrew idiom for “he deceives”—was renamed. He was given the name Israel, “because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (Genesis 32:28). It was then that Jacob realized what had happened. “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared’” (Genesis 32:30).
Many years later, one of Jacob’s descendants had His own midnight encounter with the Father. The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He struggled with God in the Garden of Gethsemane. He pleaded with the Father to spare Him from the suffering that He was about to endure. However, even in His anguish, He humbled Himself and said to the Father, “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jacob and Jesus both presented requests to the Father: Jacob desired a blessing, and God granted it; and Jesus asked God to remove His suffering, but yielded to God’s greater purpose. Likewise, both of their struggles birthed a new identity: Jacob received a new name, while Jesus allowed the blessing of a new identity to us! He took on the punishment that we deserve and we receive the blessing that is His. We are renamed “Redeemed.”
As believers, even our struggles become a blessing because they draw us closer to Jesus. Jesus is the true and better Jacob, wrestling with God and taking the blow that was due to us, so that we might receive the blessing of grace! Let’s remember to take our struggles to Him!