Hope in the Hardship
IT IS AMAZING to see how God works. I wrote this blog over a month ago when the current pandemic COVID-19 wasn’t even on our minds. I was going to rewrite a blog to encourage you in light of our current struggle. But as I read this blog, I couldn’t help but conclude how timely – perhaps “Providential” - this word is for us today.
I am struck by how Jacob characterized his life to Pharaoh in Genesis 47:9. Having moved his family to Egypt upon the news that his son Joseph was not only alive, but was second only to Pharaoh in all the land of Egypt, Jacob introduced himself to Pharaoh by saying, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years, few and evil have been the days of my life.”
You can detect from Jacob’s voice that his life has not been an easy life, and indeed it hasn’t. It was a life filled with conflict
~ There was conflict with his twin brother Esau after Jacob stole the blessing of his father from Esau. Consequently, Esau threatened to kill his brother and so Jacob ran away to live with his mother’s family.
~ He fell in love with Laban’s daughter, Rachel. He worked for Laban seven years so that he could marry Rachel. But instead he was given Leah, Rachel’s sister, to be his wife. He had to work another seven years for the right to marry Rachel.
~ Married to two sisters, there was a constant sibling rivalry Jacob had to manage. This rivalry was especially felt when Leah was able to bear children and Rachel, whom Jacob loved, was not.
~ His father-in-law was constantly trying to take advantage of Jacob when it came to the family business.
~ When Jacob and his family return to the land of Canaan, his sons – Simeon and Levi – compromise his good standing among the neighbors of the land by taking revenge on the violation of their sister by killing all the men of Shechem.
~ Then unbeknownst to him, his own sons sell his favorite son, Joseph, to a band of traders who then sell him as a slave in Egypt. Of course, Jacob did not know this and was under the impression that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal as he went to check on his brothers.
~ And then of course, like the rest of the world at the time, Jacob was trying to manage his resources in light of a severe and prolonged famine that had come into the land.
So yes, Jacob had his share of trials and hardships. And yet, as the story unfolds, we are given a glimpse of how God is working in the midst of these trials.
Before going down to Egypt, God assures Jacob in Genesis 46:4, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.” Several times God speaks to Jacob along the way to assure him that God is with him and that God is at work in the midst of the challenges of life. At the end of his life he tells Joseph in Genesis 48:3, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’”
Let us, therefore, be encouraged as “sojourners” in this life. The presence of difficulty and hardship is not a sign of the absence of God. Rather, let us be assured that in the challenges and sorrows, God is most definitely at work in us and through us. Be assured that God is with you.
Consider 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
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