Problems and Providence
Some relationships are just difficult. In Genesis 31, we see how difficult the relationship is with Laban because he is determined to use people to get what he wants. Laban has power and uses it for his own purposes. Jacob, along with his wives, decides it’s time to move on so that he can support his family on his own.
The present difficult circumstances are a driving force in Jacob’s life. After he stole the blessing and birthright from his brother, Esau threatened to kill him. So Jacob fled to Haran, but the providence of God was at work, and in this place far from home, God gave Jacob heirs, fulfilling the blessing given to his grandfather Abraham.
The stress of living in a difficult relationship that drives Jacob to want separate himself from his conniving father-in-law. But the truth is Jacob needs to get home so the remainder of the blessing can be fulfilled in the Promised Land. Jacob is beginning to awake to the truth that God is blessing, guiding, and directing his steps, and he wants to trust more in God than himself or others. That is always a significant turn in our spiritual journeys.
As I think back on my life, it is always amazing and humbling to realize that some of the most significant turns have come due to difficulty in my present circumstance. Leaving home to go to college was a terrifying experience, but it opened me to a deeper desire to know the God who never changes. Struggles with infertility and the unfulfilled desires to have children led me to recognize that my deepest desire was to know and love God more and more. Struggles in a previous job situation where I felt very out of control and confused by the behaviors of others around me, led me to a place where I could let go of control and expectations and trust the grace of God to care for me and provide a future for me.
Problem solving is human nature, and we generally want to get around or over obstacles. But as followers of Jesus, we can embrace every circumstance as an opportunity to trust God. It doesn’t mean the circumstance is good. What it means is that God is good and loving and more powerful than anything we go through. And that is why we can truly believe and live into the truth from Romans 8:28-39:
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We often don’t believe or know experientially that nothing can separate us from God’s love. It is when we go through trials and tribulations that we experience the truth that God is working in and through and for us in ways we have not seen before. And that enables us to grow and change and to trust him more. And that is what life is all about. I confess I am still prone to problem solve, and that is not bad. But what I want more is to recognize how God is with me in every circumstance of life and to trust his providence.