When Something Feels Futile

And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Genesis 29:25-26

I don’t know if you have ever felt like Jacob or not. He fell in love with Rachel, asked her father Laban for her hand in marriage and was told that he could purchase her dowry for seven years of labor. There was no reason to doubt Laban’s word because he was extended family and sincerity was assumed.

Jacob worked willingly, and joyfully, as he anticipated the day he would marry Rachel. He expressed something quite stunning ~ when he said that the labor he would offer for seven years would be ‘as one day’ ~ so great was his love for his bride-to-be.  But then the plot took a sickening turn. Laban deceived Jacob. The wedding veil would not cover the face of Rachel but the face of her sister, Leah. He would be tricked, and seven years of his life would have been wasted. Could God be the redeemer of lost years? That seems to be the question.

Have you ever signed up for something that would be of great cost to you only to find out later that certain information was withheld from you? You realize, too late, that you would have made a different decision entirely. Some marry under false pretenses. Many others make business decisions under a shroud of deception and end up losing everything. Some bare their soul to a confidant and later uncovers that the information has been used against them. Each of these scenarios involves great losses, one of which is time.

Jacob was forty when he went on his journey to meet Rachel. Hardly a young groom. To lose seven years on top of that must have seemed depressing but there is no indication that he plummets into despair. He loves Rachel enough to jump into another seven years of labor for the joy of finally having her as his wife.

Hindsight into Jacob’s story offers us golden insight into the plans of God for people’s lives. His blessing for Jacob wasn’t thwarted in the least by Laban’s deception. When I’m the child of the great Redeemer, what seems to be lost years aren’t even a problem for God. When others sin against me and steal from me, it is spiritual futility to fall into bitterness. The energy and despair (and the strongholds that result from it) are really what’s wasted. Don’t I know the power of the One whose child I am? For three years, I despaired over 22 lost years, years I suffered under the deception of a ministry partner, only to discover that the years weren’t lost at all. They were teachers for the great redemption to come!

I’ve also learned that joy in You confounds and frustrates the one who sinned against me. Is there any greater victory and testimony? Amen

What Goes Around Comes Around

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. Genesis 29:21-23

What can any person expect who doesn’t own his sin, repent, and ask God for forgiveness? The events surrounding Jacob’s marriage reveal the answer. He reaped what he sowed. Jacob took advantage of his father’s blindness to deceive him. And then Laban took advantage of the cover of night to deceive Jacob. God instituted a world of sowing and reaping. Whatever ways I sin against others, I must know that I will bear the consequences of others sinning that way against me.

Jacob didn’t own his sin of deceit against his father and brother. He didn’t go to each of them, confess what he did, and then ask for forgiveness.  Instead, he fled home to spare his life from the wrath of a spurned brother. History would be repeated by someone who knew nothing of Jacob’s original sin.

From what sin are you, or someone you love, running today? Fleeing without repenting guarantees nothing but the assurance that consequences will play out in exactly the same ways as the unconfessed sin that is being avoided. David said in the Psalms, “Where can I go from your presence?” That is a comfort for the repentant and a curse for the arrogant who believes he can outrun God’s spiritual laws.

No matter how many Good Fridays I celebrate, I will never understand the depths of your mercy. Amen

Knowledge Isn’t a Warm Bedfellow

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Genesis 29:20

Jacob loved Rachel so much that working for seven years to be able to marry her was hardly a sacrifice. Does that not say it all? 

What is Jesus asking you to do today that seems steep? There is a cost. He said there would be. It is cross-shaped. But Paul said that it was love that constrained him to endure hardship. Ultimately, it is the absence of love that causes us to think about abandoning our faith. When things get difficult, there’s not a relationship to sustain us. I’ve learned this the hard way, experiencing a nervous breakdown in my forties that might have been prevented had my roots gone deep into the love of God.  I say what I’m about to say with more passion than words can capture ~ a knowledge of God without an experience of Him does not fuel endurance.  Nor does it offer joy.  Intimacy with God is the source of strength.

There are days each of us lose perspective. They are related to the moments Jesus spent in the garden asking His Father if He might be spared the cross. God heard Jesus’ prayer, sent angels to minister to Him, but the cross was not spared. 

And one day, no matter what we’ve suffered, we will say something similar. “I loved Him, so I gave my life.”

Internal pep talks fizzle out quickly, Lord. It is Your presence that gives me supernatural strength. Amen

When Love Goes Wrong

As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month. Genesis 29:13-14

Jacob announced who he was to his uncle as Laban threw his arms around him and feigned a depth of affection that wouldn’t materialize when tested. Did Jacob let his guard down when he was embraced? Probably so. That’s what we tend to do when we are among those we assume are safe. It will turn out that Laban will be generous with Jacob but only because it will be self-serving.

In this fallen world, love is just flawed. No one loves perfectly. Family relationships are messy. Sinful human nature acts out constantly. What makes the road so treacherous is that love can exist one minute and disappear the next when it requires something in the relationship that is believed to be too steep. A generous person becomes stingy in a moment over the right issue. You might be blind-sighted by the limits of their fidelity and at what point they will serve themselves instead of you.

Jacob will find out the hard way about the heart of Laban and he will suffer under Laban’s selfish scheming. But then again, hadn’t Jacob done the same thing when he schemed to extort the blessing from his father? What he sowed, he is unfortunately reaping.

How should I function with family? I don’t want to live suspiciously but I also don’t want to be naïve and trust indiscriminately. Only God can impart that kind of wisdom, a street-smart kind of savvy. I won’t always get it right. There will be times I am taken in by another’s ability to deceive me. “I love you. We’re family!” can easily melt misgivings that might have been warranted.

God is near as I navigate relationships with those who share my bloodline. When wounded, I won’t get bogged down in the mire of resentment and revenge. I’ll grieve my losses, forgive, embrace the lesson I’ve learned about the hearts of those I’m still getting to know, and move on to love wisely with my eyes wide open.

Give me the wisdom to know how to live unoffended but within the parameters of safety. Amen

When God Surprises

Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. Genesis 29:10-11

I used to live expecting God to disappoint me. I was sure that what I deserved dictated a provision of something meager. When God poured out favor and blessing instead, I cried for joy and was greatly surprised. Today, however, while there may be times I’m disappointed in God’s timing of a provision, I know it’s not because I’ve fallen into disfavor.

When Jacob met Rachel for the first time, he wept out loud. Was he surprised by God’s gift? Was he overcome by her beauty? We don’t know. I wish this account, and many other stories in scripture would offer a lot more detail so that we wouldn’t have to speculate.

Jacob came to Laban’s country because he was forced to leave home. His departure was necessary because of the plot he carried out against his brother.  I contend that Jacob’s sin had to have undermined his confidence in God. Yes, God appeared to him on his journey and spoke a blessing over him but you and I both know that blessing doesn’t always mean the removal of consequences from our past sins. Jacob did eventually face some things that were related to his acts of deceit but in this part of the story, God blessed him beyond his dreams.

As I think about my spiritual journey, I still feel the impact of some of the choices I’ve made throughout my lifetime. However, God’s grace is there to help me endure it. I’ve also lived long enough to see Him redeem my mistakes. I know what it is to weep for joy.

I used to only know one kind of tears. I’m glad You introduced me to tearful joyfulness. Amen

You Believe In Coincidences?

Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. Genesis 29:1

Jacob met the woman he will marry. And it happened at a well. So many significant spiritual moments happened at wells in the Bible. Treaties were made there. Revelations of God were experienced there. And it was at a well that Jesus disclosed His identity as the Messiah to a Samaritan woman.  These very people who came to a well never knew they were entering a divine moment. It seemed so normal to each of them. Scripture often says, “He happened upon a well…” yet God had woven circumstances together to make that moment pivotal to that person’s future.

There are no coincidences in the life of God’s child. The steps of a righteous man and woman are ordered by the Lord. God describes His sovereignty in terms of steps, not miles. Every step is under His providence. I’m often asked a question that begins with, “Do you think it’s significant that…..?” My answer is usually yes. Events are connected if you’re God’s child and you’re prayerful. A meeting with a stranger is loaded with implications because it is under God’s umbrella of divine providence. If I chalk something up to coincidence and fail to explore the meaning behind a seemingly common event, I will miss out.

I have missed many flights over the years but later understood that I got to meet someone I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I once crossed paths with four people from Houston in the course of one week and then asked God if I was to be praying for a ministry opportunity in Houston. In a year, it materialized.  Some might say this was reading too much into everything, but I’ve lived long enough to have seen that disproven. God also shed light on it when He said that the steps of a righteous man and woman are ordered by Him.  Without the prayerful exploration of something that turns our heads in wonderment, we will miss kingdom tie-ins.

Jesus said to pray without ceasing. He modeled that and did nothing without God’s nudging. That means that Jesus talked about every single day’s event with His Father. He knew that nothing was a coincidence.

In just a few minutes, I will be going to pray with an elderly, frail man in our neighborhood.  As I was out driving on an errand yesterday, his face flashed across my mind and then I heard God’s whisper.  “Go pray with David.”  I’m acting on it though it would have been easy to dismiss it as my imagination. I will probably know within the hour why God prompted this idea, and request.

The day is in front of me. With You orchestrating my life, no day is without significance to my future and the future of others. Amen