Somedays the struggle is real. I mean really real. You hit the snooze button one time too many, so now you have to rush to get ready. You realize you forgot to preset the coffee maker the night before, so no hot coffee. You knew you should have stopped for gas the day before, and now you have no choice but to stop on the way to work and remember, you are already late! You walk in the office, and everyone has an issue. And there’s a message to call your boss ASAP. Yep, the struggle is real, and it’s not even 9 a.m. yet! Yikes!
These are daily struggles but what about those other types of struggles? What about when God has planted a dream in your spirit, and you know without a doubt that it’s your calling, but you just cannot get it in gear? You create all kinds of excuses for why you can’t move forward. And they’re all based in fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not having resources. Fear of the competition. Fear of what others will say. Fear that you won’t succeed. Fear that you will embarrass yourself. Fear that your dream, your calling, is just too big. But you just cannot shake it. You can’t shake it off because the dream is within.
Jacob was a dreamer. His story starts in Genesis when he steals his brother Esau’s birthright. On the run, in fear of his brother Esau, he heads off to Mesopotamia. While en route he has a dream of a stairway leading up to heaven where God and the angels reside. In this dream, God promises Jacob the same covenant blessing he made with Abraham and Isaac. Jacob continues on his journey and ends up working twenty years for his uncle, Laban, and marries Leah and Rachel.
Keep in mind, Jacob is still carrying this dream, but it has not been fulfilled yet. What about us? How long have you carried the dream God has given you? For years I knew that God had gifted me to write and wanted me to write for Him, but I carried it (more like sat on it).
Following God’s urging, Jacob packs up his family to return to Canaan and his father’s family. The closer Jacob came to his home, the more fearful he became. Do you see the parallel here? The closer we get to fulfilling our calling, the more fearful we become. What is it about us that makes us go first to think of all the things that could go wrong? Along the way, Jacob encounters God disguised as a man, and they wrestle. I mean they wrestle…all night by the river Jabbok. In Hebrew, Jabbok means “to empty.” Jacob demands a blessing from the man, and the man blesses him by renaming him Israel or one who struggles with God.
Perhaps we must empty ourselves of all the fears to move into our calling. However, losing our fears is easier said than done. Paul commands us to “be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6). We know that “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Sometimes we need to have an experience, a struggle, to know that we are stronger than our fears. God did not need to struggle with Jacob all night. God is God. He could have taken Jacob down with no problem. However, the wrestle, the struggle, was not for God. It was for Jacob. Jacob needed to wrestle and come out of it to move past his fear. Moreover, he was rewarded for it.
God does not wrestle with us to frustrate us, but to fortify us. He is with us through the struggle to give us the confidence to face the giants ahead of us. He left Jacob with a permanent limp to remind him of the struggle and the outcome. I am starting to look at my struggles a little differently now. Struggles are to strengthen me. The struggle is real…but praise God for it!