Can you believe the audacity of Jacob? He wrestled with God and actually believed he could win! God had to maim him in order to break him down. Jacob left that struggle with God having a permanent limp. From that moment on Jacob would have a physical reminder that God was God and that he was not. Eventually Jacob did build an altar to God, and became a broken, humbled man in his old age.
Unfortunately we are more like Jacob than we would like to think. We have been programmed by our culture to think that we can do anything we want to do as long as we try hard enough. We believe that we are strong and capable people. Every day we wrestle with God for control over our lives. We want to be smart enough, strong enough, efficient enough, powerful enough, to “get the job done” “be successful,” and “make it happen.” We battle God for the driver’s seat of our lives.
God, being the loving Father that He is, knows that we are not good life-drivers and will drive ourselves into a brick wall if we are at the wheel. If we wrestle with God we can be assured that He will give us a limp to remind us that we are not in control. One of the greatest messages I’ve ever heard was given by Rick Warren on this passage and on this topic. He titled his message “Ministering from Weakness.” In that message he proposed that God will never use you until he has broken you and given you a limp of some kind. Some of us have relational struggles, some have chronic illness, and others have external oppression.
God gives us a “limp” for two reasons:
1. He wants us to remember to turn to Him every day for strength.
Without a constant reminder that we need His healing touch and strength to make it we would most likely not turn to Him. It’s like the old saying goes, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” People turn to God when they are in need. By giving us a “limp” God has provided a constant reminder of our daily dependence on Him for survival.
2. He wants to make it so that we are not able to take the credit for the work that He does through us.
Like the baby born to an old woman, our ministry — ministry that is truly flowing from God and not us — will be ministry that happens in spite of our “limp.” In other words, our “limp” keeps us humble and makes it impossible for us to take the credit.
Look at the pain that you may be experiencing in your life today. Could it be that your painful experience is not the curse from God that you thought it was, but, rather, it is the loving gift of God that is producing character, perseverance, and humility in your life so that you can be a better servant of Him?