Rock and a Hard Place

Ever felt like you were between a rock and a hard place?

It usually happens when we’re caught between two choices – neither of which a good one. When it seems like every option available is a bad, you may be tempted to feel defeated or overwhelmed. I get it. But, sometimes those situations are where God’s hand is displayed in ways we could never predict.

There was a time that I felt like disaster was around every corner. I lived in constant dread that any decision could end up causing me pain. Fear and anxiety ruled my life. In my brokenness, I believed that controlling everything around me would shield me from the hard stuff. Which, of course it didn’t.

Difficulties are part of life. I controlled to mitigate my fear, but, when the things I feared happened anyway, I was driven to control even more.

Friends, I’m here to tell you it’s an exhausting way to live. But, maybe some of you already know that.

If you do, I have some good news. There’s hope.

We have a perfectly imperfect hero as our example. Let’s look at the story of Jacob in the old testament (Genesis 25 – 30). He’s an interesting guy – if by “interesting” you mean not so nice person. He’s described as being a con artist, liar, and manipulator. In fact, the name Jacob actually means “deceiver.” So, not the kind of guy you probably want to have in your inner circle.

There’s a lot to his story, but there’s an ongoing theme of deep-seated family hostilities that characterize Jacob’s life – most of which he causes. For example, his twin brother Esau was the first born and that honor came with some pretty big perks. Jacob wanted those benefits and went to some pretty elaborate steps to trick their dad into giving the birthright to him instead of Esau!

It seems even more outlandish that Jacob did that when you realize God had promised that through him would come not only a great nation, but a whole company of nations! I have to wonder if his fears and anxieties played a role in his behavior.

I can just hear his thoughts. “How’s the second son going to birth a nation? That seems like more of a first-born thing. How is God going to do that?”

Trusting God for a promise that big may have been more than our dear frightened friend, Jacob could take. I imagine he was merely “helping God out” when he took matters into his own hands.

But that’s not Jacob’s only family trouble. He marries two sisters – Leah and Rachel, and they don’t get along. He’s not in a great place with his father-in-law either. His family life is pretty complex, but it’s at that pivotal point where Jacob’s life is about to take a dramatic turn!

Sick of his father-in-law’s treatment, Jacob runs away only to find out his brother, Esau is on his way to meet him.

Now Esau, is still pretty worked up about the whole birth-right trickery, and he’s made it clear he wants to kill Jacob. It’s at this moment, all Jacob’s struggles and fears are about to be realized. At this moment, Jacob is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and I believe that’s right where God wants him.

Anxious for his very life, Jacob concocts a solution to fix the issue with his brother. Does he apologize? Offer to give his brother’s birthright back? No… not our Jacob.

His solution is a bribe in the form of a caravan carrying gifts. Maybe like me you see the fault in his plan, but Jacob really thinks he can control the outcome of his situation by pacifying his brother.

Now he can only wait. Physically and emotionally exhausted, alone in the desert wilderness, facing death, he realizes he powerless to control his fate. With his father-in-law behind him and Esau before him, he was too spent to struggle any longer, so he collapses into a deep sleep on the banks of a river.

Poor Jacob. Rather than the sweet escape of sleep, his real struggle begins. The story tells us that night Jacob is visited by an angelic stranger. They wrestled throughout the night, and morning finds our friend, Jacob crippled from a blow to his hip that would cause him to limp for the rest of his life.

What may seem like a cruel end to Jacob’s story becomes a blessing, because at the conclusion of that struggle the scriptures tell us that God “blessed him there” (Genesis 32:29). It is then that Jacob realizes what happened.

It is then he says: “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared” (Genesis 32:30). Jacob the deceiver receives a new name, Israel, which likely means “He struggles with God.”

Looking back, I don’t think it’s that unusual to try to control fear. My friends I think if some of you look closely you may see a bit of it peeking out from under your well-maintained persona.

It’s not always necessary to wrestle with God to find healing. Sometimes all it takes is admitting you have a problem and asking for His help.

Sometimes the best place to be is between a rock and a hard place.

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