"The Struggle Is Real" - Genesis 32:22-31

As you may or may not know, the name Jacob, יַעֲקֹב (Ya'aqov), not only suggests deception, but literally means grabber, as in, he was grabbing the heal of his twin brother Esau coming out of the womb. Jacob was a very determined man, some might even say ruthless. Jacob swindled his older brother Esau out of his birthright and duped his father into giving him the blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau. 

When we come across Jacob in Genesis 32:22-31, he is being pursued by his father-in-law Laban and his brother Esau awaits him. He sends his wives, family, livestock, and possessions across the Jabbok River. He is literally all alone in the dark. Jacab has endured struggle after struggle in his life. He is pretty much at his wits end and completely exhausted as night falls.

It is here, alone, in the dark, and exhausted beyond belief, that Jacob encounters the fight of his life with an angelic stranger. They wrestled throughout the night until daybreak, at which point the stranger crippled Jacob with a blow to his hip that disabled him with a limp for the rest of his life. For Jacob, The Struggle Is Real. 

Who was MLK?

Last week we celebrated MLK Day. You probably know that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist, who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. But, King had real struggles of his own. He struggled against racism and racial inequality, problems with the FBI, self-doubt, and depression. Whether he was writing a letter in the Birmingham jail, praying with his feet as he marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, receiving countless death threats, or delivering a speech about a dream he had, there must have been some truly dark nights of the soul. The struggles that Martin Luther King Jr. had were indeed very real.

The Connection of Struggle

One of my favorite Christian recording artists is Jeremy Camp. One of my favorite songs is “Walk By Faith.” I was at a Celebrate Freedom concert near Garland, Texas one summer when I heard Jeremy Camp’s testimony as he introduced this song. He had the inspiration for this song at the beside of his recently departed wife. There he sat, exhausted as he too wrestled with God. As you might imagine, he was very angry with God and just simply could not understand why this might happen, much less where to go from here. It was then that God reminded him to walk by faith not by sight. He had a gift and a message to proclaim. Shortly after that he began working on the song “Walk By Faith.”

Some time later, I was visiting my girlfriend at the time Laura and her family for Thanksgiving. It was actually a difficult time as her sister Melissa had delivered her son Matthew prematurely.  So, I was with Melissa at the bedside praying for and with her. Matthew weighed only a little over a pound and was struggling mightily. Matthew, Melissa, and her family were in the fight of their lives. Prayerfully, I had brought her Jeremy Camp’s CD “Stay”. I encouraged her to listen to the CD, especially track number 3, “Walk By Faith”.

Now, Laura and I are coming up on our 9th year of marriage and Matthew is a very healthy, happy, and kind-hearted 11-year-old. Melissa still remembers how she listened to “Walk By Faith” to and from the hospital visiting Matthew in the early months of his life. There were some very dark, lonely nights that were endured. But joy and blessings came every morning. You never know when your testimony through struggle and your darkest night might inspire someone else to keep fighting the good fight. Yes, the Lord can and will use even you.

A New Hope

But, what about you? What makes you who you are? What real struggles do you have? I am convinced that we all have struggles of some kind. Maybe you are going through a seemingly impossible time in your life where you battle depression, finances, or even struggle because you long to experience true, unconditional, and unfailing love. Whatever the case, that Struggle Is Real for you.

Here is where we have difficulties. We know we can lay our burdens down at the feet of Jesus. But, once we approach the Almighty in prayer and with an exhausted and overwhelmed spirit, we don’t truly and completely let go. We might say all the right words like, “I know this is to much for me. That is why am giving it over to you.” However, we are not truly giving it all over to our Creator. We hold on so tight to the very thing that weighs heavy on us, the very thing that is keeping us from experiencing the abundant life that is in store for us.

You see, we have struggled with this so long and become so familiar with it that is has unknowingly become a part of who we are. Actually, we don’t know what life would look like without it, and that scares us. Like Jacob, we have come to God for a blessing, but we end up fighting the very hands that are trying to love, help, and hold us in our time of need. We must understand that God is actually on the same side, team, and family. God is truly for us and not against us. No matter how deep and how piecing the pain, no matter how completely lonely and desperate we feel, and no matter how overpowering the darkness might appear, there is joy and new mercies every morning! Yes, the Struggle Is Real, but, thanks be to God, we have a new hope and a new life in Jesus Christ! And my prayer is that the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. comes to life and we can all proclaim, “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last!”

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