As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring the world down and drown the people in the sea of helplessness, the story of Jacob in the book of Genesis throws light on human nature and the need to realise God’s presence in times of trouble - the need to find strength and wisdom in God, especially during tough times.
The story of Jacob also reminds us of wasted strength and needless worries and fear when we forget to turn to God for help and solutions. Jacob lived in great fear of Esau, his twin brother, who lost his birthright to Jacob. Jacob was greatly troubled as he was always thinking about Esau’s great anger and possible revenge on him for the birthright of a first child that was given to him. Leaning on his human knowledge and understanding, Jacob painfully wasted a lot of time and suffered endlessly.
We have a lot of lessons to learn from Jacob’s story of great fear and untold pain and suffering.
All go through various forms of worries, troubles and sufferings at different levels. We experience pain and physical ill health, financial problems, conflicts, and now the coronavirus crisis. During such trying times, we need to remember we are not alone. God is with us. Where there is trouble, God is also there, waiting for us to draw closer to him for help, to seek him and lean on him completely.
As Jacob was gripped with great fear of Esau’s anger and possible revenge by Esau, God instructed Jacob in the Bible to take his whole family and go to the Promised Land and live with his people. God promised complete protection and told Jacob to not worry. God also sent great numbers of angels to guard over Jacob and his family members as they journeyed on to the Promised Land.
Likewise, during our difficult journey in life, when in fear or in trouble, when we are weary and in pain, God says in the Bible that he is there with us. We need to believe it. When we believe and know the word of God and His presence with us, all our fears and troubles will fade away. Our faith in Him will give us an easy and peaceful feeling.
But knowing and believing that God is with us and we are not alone is not enough. We need to keep our eyes on Him constantly and lean on Him to enjoy God’s peace during troubled times.
Despite God’s promises, Jacob failed to turn to God. He leaned on his own understanding and tried to overcome the fear of Esau with his own strength and worldly knowledge. Through his words and actions, Jacob opposed and challenged God due to which his plans and hopes to make peace with Esau failed. Despite his great plan to thwart a possible attack from Esau and his men, he was always gripped by fear and worries. Finally, he gave up and knelt before God. He turned to God in the way just as he should. He remembered God’s promise of protection to him and humbled himself before God.
It was a beautiful prayer. However, the wonderful prayer went in vain, perhaps, because Jacob continued to lean on his own power. The change in Jacob came about when God appeared to him one night in the image of man and wrestled with him through the wee hours. During the wrestle, God weakened his strongest points - his thighs and around the waist. As he began to lose his strength, God wanted Jacob to remember that he was blessed with the birthright of the first child, but he failed to trust God and continued with his deceiving ways.
It may be noted that Jacob did not give heed to God’s promise of a comfortable and pleasurable life. He strived to attain great wealth on his own. God had promised to protect Jacob from all vengeful moves from Esau. But Jacob failed to wait on God’s timing. He depended on his earthly ways and means to overcome his greatest fear - Esau. To remind Jacob all of his failures and weaknesses, God asked him who he was. And after wrestling with God, Jacob was named Israel, meaning God prevails, as a covenant with God.
Often, because God wants us to change our ways and come to him, the way Jacob encountered God in real life, God may be wrestling with us in various earthly forms because he wants us to humble ourselves and draw near to him. For us to humble ourselves and shift our focus on God, God may be wrestling with us with the coronavirus pandemic and crisis. He wants us to stop depending on our own knowledge and strength. He wants us to lean on him during this crisis time.
It may be pointed out that in the struggle and wrestle with the pandemic, God allowed coronavirus to hit the strongest point of the world’s survival – the economy. A good economy is an indicator of a country’s development, growth and power. God has slayed our strongest existential factor, the economy.
Despite the crisis situation, our hearts are still hardened. We are still trying to deal with today’s COVID-19 crisis situation with our human knowledge and strength.
Surely, one day, the situation will get better and good times will return but only when God’s will and His plans in all of these chaos is fulfilled.
During these trying times, God wants us to lean not on our own strength and human knowledge but to return to Him and strengthen our faith in Him. And lean on Him always. Difficulties and troubles come in different forms. But know that in times of trouble you are not alone and I am not alone. God is with us at all times. Know that He is there to help us. Let’s keep our eyes on Him closely and constantly.
We need to come to God prayerfully for His will to be done. We must pray for God to make all things beautiful, not in our time, but in His time.