"Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day."—Genesis 32:24 (NKJV)
Sometimes a life’s trajectory can be captured in a “moment.” Michael Jordan sinks a shot from the top of the key with three seconds left to advance past the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 NBA playoffs…the legend is born. Jordan had hit big shots before then. But he hadn’t yet separated himself from the other greats of his day. That changed from this moment forward. From that point on, Jordan was expected to rise to every occasion and prevail, which he did with ruthless regularity! That moment revealed he was a winner.
We see a similar moment in Jacob’s life in the verse above. In context, Jacob had come to the crisis of his life. After years of running from his brother Esau, from whom he’d stolen the family birthright, he can no longer avoid him. Jacob would be face to face with Esau (as well as a small army of 400 men) the next day, and the weight of what might unfold was pressing down on him! He does what many men do when racked with worry. He isolates himself by sending everyone away for the night.
But it’s in this crucible of crisis that a Man shows up and wrestles with Jacob. We know that this Man was none other than the Lord, Himself! As He is seen to do from time to time in the Old Testament, the Lord appears at a pivotal moment in someone’s life. This moment revealed Jacob’s resiliency. They wrestle all night long! Now, if He wanted to, the Lord could have broken Jacob in half within seconds. But He didn’t, did He? Instead, He allowed the struggle to go on for hours for a greater purpose. And that purpose was to reveal something about Jacob to Jacob.
"Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, 'Let Me go, for the day breaks.' But he said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!' So He said to him, 'What is your name?' He said, 'Jacob.' And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”—Genesis 32:25–28 (NKJV)
A lot is going on here, but the essential point is this is Jacob’s “moment.” He went into this encounter one way, and he’s coming out a different man. And notice, resiliency was a key factor in all of this. Had Jacob tapped out after a few seconds, he would have been the same man. But because of Jacob’s resilience, he entered into a prolonged struggle, which brought him to the place of transformation as the Lord broke him down (by putting his hip out of its socket) and built him up (by giving him a new identity). Physically, Jacob was weaker, but spiritually, he had leveled up. Resiliency was a necessary part of this process.
In our own lives, we often quit once we encounter a God-ordained struggle. But as we see with Jacob, the prolonged struggle has a purpose in God’s plan for our lives, and we need resilience to experience it. If we tap out, we miss out on the deeper work of transformation the Lord desires to do in us. We stay Jacob, the heel-catcher, instead of becoming Israel, the God-governed. But by being resilient, we can become all the Lord desires us to be.
PAUSE: What was Jacob’s “moment” and how did it change him?
PRACTICE: How does resilience factor into God’s desired work in our lives?
PRAY: Lord, strengthen us, equip us, fortify us, give us the resilience needed to withstand the transformative struggles that You’ve prepared for us.