Please note…this is "Jacob, part 5." I encourage you to scroll down and start with "Jacob, part 1."
What if God were to “show up” in your life, in some powerful display of His presence?
Fleeing from his brother Esau’s wrath, Jacob leaves his home...
And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it...Genesis 28:12-13
I’d like to think a dream like this would resolve my struggle about God’s manifest presence in my life. I mean, really, all I need is one burning bush, one angelic visitation, just one dry fleece on the ground (Read Judges 6:36-40 if I lost you on that one). I don’t think I’m actually asking too much, am I? I mean, if only Jesus would turn water into wine at a wedding for me, I swear I’d stop doubting. Seriously, if I just get to walk on water one time, I’m solid.
But I’m NOT solid. I’m a mess. And I have had experiences with God that are like walking on water. They should convince me to trust God. Why then, do I--do we--swing back and forth from clarity & conviction to emotional atheism? Why does the Bible tell me one story, a story that seems so glorious that I get jacked about seeing God move in my life, but then my life tells me another story...a story where I feel like I am on my own?
Precisely because our woundedness attaches to our view of God as well as to every other area in our lives. We’ve seen Jacob’s baggage, how his “father wound” seems to be driving him to live life as if he is on his own. But now, God moves in to bring healing to Jacob and this dream is the first step.
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place!” Genesis 28:16-17
The most fundamental reality in Jacob’s story is that God has chosen him and nothing in heaven and earth can stop God from doing all that He has promised. But the fundamental belief in Jacob’s heart, his experience, is that you get ahead by pushing ahead; oh sure, there’s a God, but in “real life” Jacob must cheat, lie, and manipulate to get what he wants.
His life message is that I am on my own.
His driving motivation, then, his core belief, is that he must manage life on his own terms if he is to succeed. John Eldredge put it this way, “we don’t really develop our core convictions so much as they develop within us, when we are young. Down deep, in the innermost parts they form, down in deep water, like the shifting of the continental plates.” Jacob’s belief, “I’m on my own,” is not arrived at after careful contemplation on the character of God, sitting under a starry sky. That core belief was poured, like wet concrete, into his young soul by a disengaged dad and a manipulative mom, only to harden as circumstances seemed to confirm this as reality, to become his life message.
So how does God heal our mistrust of Him?
In the Jacob story, we will see God intervene in small and big ways, through divine interventions and what we call mere circumstances. We will see Jacob ever...so...slowly progress in faith, because...
Struggle is an act of worship.
Faith is a wrestling, a mix of conviction and confusion, a battle that has both daring and doubt. That’s why it’s called “the fight of faith.” Somewhere along the line, we bought the Big Lie that this thing called Christianity was supposed to be...easy. Where did that come from? Man, every day, I fight to believe that God is in my life, working out His plan. Every day! I choose to believe, and we all MUST choose because, like a great novel, you just can’t “see it” till the final chapters. Only then does the divine Author weave together the plot He has been developing all along.
And check this out: when we examine the Jacob story, we see the plot progress through the normal stuff of life. We will read chapters on sibling rivalry, the difficulties of marriage, and a demanding employer. It’s in the mundane that God works out His master plan.
On top of that, when we do take small steps forward in trusting God, there is little, if any, evidence that it matters to God. He simply doesn’t shoot off a powerful July fourth firework display when we believe. Not once have I heard an angelic choir break forth with Handel’s “Hallelujah” when I decide to trust God in my life.
But don’t miss this--simple faith is the heroic God-glorifying act of your life. And anything great is not easy. This is why our faith is described as “more precious than gold” (1 Peter 1:7).
Jacob’s ladder, then, was simply the first step for him. It was merely his first awakening to see reality as God describes it. His faith, like ours, will shift back and forth, as the chapters of his life proceed through the glorious process of simply trusting God.
"Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it."
It is in THIS place of family difficulty, of marital struggle, of financial hardship that we must trust God is working out His plan. It is into the mundane movements of our job, of our desires, of our fears, that God moves and reveals His faithfulness, ever so slowly, but ever so surely.
And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place!”
Blog writing ®John Hever. Unless otherwise stated, photos are not the original creative works of John Hever. To access the website of h2o church, go to www.h2ochurch.org.