THE INNER STRUGGLE
"And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD" (Gen. 25:22)
We cannot walk with God without struggle and pain. The LORD told Adam that his disobedience to His voice would cause him pain all the days of his life. (Gen. 3:17) That may not have sounded very encouraging at the moment, however, understanding the reason for this kind of struggle is the key to long-term victory. A perfect example of this kind of struggle begins with the story of Rebekah and her pregnancy with her twins, Esau and Jacob. God points out in His Word that the children struggled together WITHIN HER.
Likewise, our struggle is WITHIN US. We can blame the struggle on our geographical location, on our family, on our church, on our pastor, on our mate, or on our friends. Even if this sort of blame assignment seemed to "work" in the past, it won't "work" anymore! It has no permanent, Godly solution.
We must understand that our primary struggle lies in the truth that we need a true identity, and only God can give us the right one, the one He has chosen. Although we will continue to battle in all sorts of "fleshly struggles," once we are re-named, we have the tools to remain at peace with who we are as we stand before God and before man.
Jacob started his struggle in the womb of his mother. (Gen. 25:22) Hosea 12:3-4 tells us that Jacob took his brother by the heel while in the womb. That was only the beginning of his struggles with his brother, with himself, and with others.
Again, our biggest struggle is internal. Too many times we don't understand our motives at all; we want to do what is right, but time after time, we don't do it. The Apostle Paul says that we actually do the very thing we hate (the thing we know is not pleasing to God, nor beneficial to us). Remember there is the law of sin and death at work WITHIN US that causes our will (flesh) to be at war with our redeemed mind (soul). (Rom. 7:15-23) Interpersonal battles (with others) are NOT with flesh and blood.... ever.
Because we are human, we all encounter the internal and external struggles that are common to every man. Each of our struggles is personal and, in fact, can be named. The list of names is vast and includes: fear, insecurity, temptation, guilt, addiction, discontentment, manipulation, and pride.
THE REAL STRUGGLE
If we honestly search for the root of all our struggles, we inevitably discover that our real struggle is with God Himself. Jacob struggled with God. (Hos. 12:3). "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day" (Gen. 32:24). Jacob was actually in a wrestling match with God. In this struggle, God asks Jacob to tell him his name. (Gen. 32:27) God already knew Jacob's name, but wanted Jacob to understand and proclaim what was going on WITHIN him.
Hebraically, the name Jacob can mean "layer of snares." In Hebrew, a layer of snares is trickery. The name Jacob also means "to be a supplanter," one who wants to take over. The natural man, the flesh, does not want to submit to God. Fortunately for Jacob, this story tells us that as the time came for Jacob to face God, get honest with himself, be broken and re-named, he submitted to the Lord's will.
Be encouraged! Whenever we find ourselves in a struggle, know that God is trying to change our identity and give us a new name. He is directing us to conform to His will.
Here are three keys to help us through these struggles:
With honesty and respect, tell God what you are really thinking. Do you feel things are unfair? Are situations too painful? Confess to the LORD as David did. David in Psalm 13:1-5 says "How long, Lord, will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with the sorrow in my heart everyday? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, my God!"
Respectfully complain to God. I heard a minister once teach that we are not to complain ABOUT God. There is a way to come before the LORD to humbly present your complaint, as you express your anguish and disappointment about your circumstances. Moses complained to God (about the people) and received God's help. On the contrary, the children of Israel complained about what God was asking of them, and they were destroyed in the wilderness. Your attitude toward and your respect for the Father are critical to your outcome and many times, your survival.
Remind the LORD of His promises to you. Right before Jacob goes through his struggle with God, he prays. "Then Jacob prayed, 'O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O LORD, You told me, 'Return to your own land and to your relatives.' And You promised me, 'I will treat you kindly.' I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness You have shown to me, Your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps!'" "O LORD, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. But You promised me, 'I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.'" (Gen. 32:9-12)
Jacob struggled with God and WON a personal victory, a victory over himself. God gave him a new name, "Israel." God said, "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed" (Gen. 32:28).
Jacob had to be emptied of self, in order to receive his new name. Only upon being renamed was he empowered to face his brother Esau, whom he greatly feared.
To make amends for his brother's anger against him, Jacob sent Esau gifts. As the two were re-united, the exchange of words between the brothers gives us a key to grant us hope, especially if we are those who are going through the process of being emptied. Esau tells Jacob he does not need his gifts. In Hebrew, Esau says to Jacob, "Yesh li rab." This means "I have many things." Because Jacob has been broken, emptied out and re-named by God, he replies, "Yesh li kol." which means, "I HAVE EVERYTHING."
We cannot say "I have everything" until we are completely emptied of self. Yeshua is the perfect picture of a man completely yielded and emptied. He walked in divine power as He was wholly submitted and led by His Father—every step, every moment.
Learn to use these keys to get through struggles. Remember that Jacob told the LORD he would NOT let him go until He blessed him. (Gen. 32:26). Don't give up or even look back. God truly wants to bless.