“God, I can’t do this anymore!”
Frustrated with my life, I jumped into my car for a drive. Living in a dorm of 400 men my junior year of college, I had nowhere else I could vent. So I drove around the city yelling at God. No—make that screaming at God.
“God, I hate my life. I hate who I am. I’m so angry at you.” I was pounding on my steering wheel at a stoplight. Another car pulled beside me, but I didn’t care who witnessed my tirade.
“God, I need you so much. I can’t make it without you.”
The realization of my profound need for God broke through my wall of anger. Pulling my car into an empty parking lot, I sobbed so deeply I could hardly breathe. I can’t make it without him, I thought to myself.
Have you ever cried out to God in desperation? That’s the focus of today’s study.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Genesis 31:22-55. Apart from the back-and-forth manipulations between Laban and Jacob, put your self in Laban’s shoes. If Jacob moves away, there’s a good chance he’ll never see his daughters and grandchildren again. I can understand why Laban would work so hard to keep Jacob nearby.
Genesis 31:39. The New Bible Commentary comments, “Normally shepherds did not have to foot the bill for loss from their flocks when it was caused by wild animals (Exodus 22:13), but Jacob had. Laban had enjoyed much better service from Jacob than would normally have been expected.”
Genesis 31:42, 53. Commentators aren’t certain what “the fear of Isaac” means. Some think it’s a reference to ancestor worship (which I doubt). I think it’s a reference to God: “the God of Abraham and the God whom Isaac feared.”
Genesis 32:3-5. The Bible Background Commentary explains the reason why Jacob let his brother know that he was coming through town: “Jacob’s communication to Esau is intended to make several points. First, he has not been in hiding or sneaking around the land behind Esau’s back. Second, and more importantly…by describing his success and wealth, he insinuates that he has not returned because he is broke and looking to demand what is due him.”
Matthew 10:32-38. Meditating on Jesus’ call to follow him, it seems to me that if fearing God means taking God seriously, then following Jesus means taking Jesus seriously.
Matthew 10:42. The New Bible Commentary explains, “To give a cup of cold water is basic eastern hospitality and needs no reward; but God’s grace goes beyond our deserving.”
THE WORD MADE FRESH
With the Haiti tragedy looming in the background, I struggled focusing on today’s reading. But then a theme began to emerge.
Reading Jacob’s prayer made me laugh. Finally, Jacob’s manipulative past caught up with him. Learning that Esau was heading his direction with 400 men prompted Jacob to make things right with God. I can hear his desperate sobs:
God, I’m so sorry for what I did to my brother. I promise I’ll never do it again. Just save me! Save my family! God, remember your promise to bless me and give me more descendents than I could ever count. God, HELP ME!
You get the idea.
Author Anne Lamott says there are only two kinds of prayers: “Thank you, thank you, thank you” and “HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME!” This is definitely a “HELP ME!” prayer.
Then, in Psalm 13, we see a prayer Jacob could have prayed as he waited for Esau. If you notice, this psalm begins as a prayer of desperation and ends as a prayer of assurance. David begins by asking God, “How long will I have to wait for you to intervene? Have you forgotten me?” yet he concludes by saying, “My heart rejoices in your salvation…because you have been good to me.”
I don’t think we cry out to God enough. I sure don’t. But God can handle it and at some point in our yelling, we often get a sense of assurance. Sometimes my fears and anxieties pile up inside me, and voicing them to God releases them. But by releasing them to God, I’m communicating my need for him. Getting our fears and anxieties out of our system creates space for God to fill us with his reassuring love.
And in response, we echo David’s words: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”
So what does this have to do with Haiti? Right now, millions of people are crying out in desperation. They’re helpless, homeless, grief-stricken. In their cries of desperation, let’s ask God to overwhelm them with the assurance of his love, comfort and salvation.
- How did today’s reading to speak to you?
- In Matthew 5:9, Jesus encouraged people to be peacemakers. But in Matthew 10:24, he says he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. How do you reconcile the two?
- Describe a time when you cried out in desperation to God. What if anything changed inside you?
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