It was the darkest, loneliest night of his life. Fear and distress gripped him. What was to become of him? Would the God of his grandfather and father, the God who had blessed him at Bethel, the God who had caused him to prosper in Padam Aram, the God who had led him back home forsake him now?
He remembered the last time he had seen his brother, and though it had been twenty years the image was forever etched in his mind—the anger, the hatred, the threats. He had fled, under the advice of his mother, for fear of his life. Now there was no place to hide. Would this be it?
He’d prayed. Had God heard? He’d divided his family into two groups for their safety. He’d even sent gifts to his brother. All his human resources were spent. Was it enough to spare him or was he to suffer for past deeds?
He was tired. All of life had been a struggle. All he had ever wanted was God and the blessing He’d promised. What was wrong with that? Perhaps his methods for obtaining it had been wrong, but who could fault him for desiring God?
Suddenly out of the darkness emerges the silhouette of a man. He stealthily approaches. Who is it? Someone sent to kill him in the night? A robber come to take his goods?
He wrestled, pitting all his strength against this man. That’s all he had ever known — wrestling. He’d wrestled in the womb. He’d wrestled with his brother, wrestled his father, wrestled his uncle and cousins. Now this stranger.
He wrestled for his life. Wrestled all night long.
The sun peered over the horizon. The man touched him in the thigh, crippling him. One touch was all it took to change his gait forever. He now knew this was no ordinary man, and that knowledge caused him to cling even more tightly.
“Let me go! The sun is coming up. Let me go!” demands the stranger. Yet he clings all the more. Now his natural strength is gone, but he still has one desire. The same desire he has always had — a desire for God.
“I’ll not let you go until you bless me!”
“Tell me, what’s your name? Who are you really?” the Stranger asks.
This was the moment of truth. His response was the key to freedom from his past, freedom from strife, freedom from struggle. His response could bring him to a place of rest and the peace for which he longed.
“Jacob,” he hissed and in that revelation he acknowledges his true character. “Yes, I know. I am a heel-grabber, a supplanter, a deceiver, a schemer. All my life the end has justified the means. I admit that’s who I am.”
But in the truth there rests the power to heal and to change.
“No longer. You are now Israel for you have prevailed. This night you finally won.”
And though from this day forth Jacob walked with a limp, he’d come to a place of knowing his strength was in God. He learned what Paul learned —His Grace is sufficient. In our weakness, He is strong. All God’s strong ones — the truly mature ones — walk with a limp.
This night of wrestling was God working something out of Jacob, bringing him to the end of himself. Bringing him to a death. It was that night that Jacob saw his entire life pass before him. Rebekah was there, Esau was there, Isaac was there, Laban was there. The striving in his own strength to obtain what God had promised before he was born. It was here that Jacob died so that Israel could live. It was here that God brought Jacob to a faith that rests, leans on and utterly relies on God and God alone.
He desires to do the same with each of us. To bring us to a place of total surrender and rest in Him. Surrender is the heart of spiritual maturity. In and of ourselves we can do nothing. Real life is allowing the Christ in us to live His life in and through us. The Christian life is a life of rest. Rest says, “Christ, You are my life. For me to live is Christ and to die to my self-life is gain.” So many of us struggle—struggle to be, struggle to have, struggle to live like Christ. All God is asking us to do is rest in Him and allow His love, light and life to flow unhindered through us.
Hear Him ask, “What’s your name?” How will you respond?
It’s when we come to place of truth and surrender that we learn there is strength in the limp!
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