Do you ever feel like everything is against you? Like nothing is going your way and it is just discouragement after discouragement? You are not alone, even the patriarch Jacob said, “[All] these things are against me” (Gen 42: 36 NASB).
Jacob’s life was one struggle after another. He literally struggled in his mother’s womb (Gen 25:22) and things didn’t get easier after he was born. You’re probably familiar with his story: he steals his brother’s birthright and Esau hates him and wants to kill him (Gen 27:41); he flees to Uncle Laban where the deceiver is deceived and (because of a wife-swap) works fourteen years for Rachel and six years for flock; he prospers, gets lots of children, live stalk, and wives (Gen 30), and God tells him He will be with him (Gen 31:3); but Laban cheats him of his wages ten times; nevertheless, God watches out for him. Despite the fears Jacob has at meeting his brother and his 400 men, Esau meets him peacefully. Jacob even wrestles with God and instead of dying, he is blessed (Gen 32)!
But the struggles continue.
His daughter is defiled and his sons murder all the men of the city (Gen 34). In the midst of a life of struggles, God appears and speaks and blesses Jacob (Gen 35). But the struggles continue. Rachel dies. Jacob is deceived by his sons into thinking his favourite son (Joseph) is devoured by animals. He mourns deeply.
And then – as if things couldn’t get any worse – a famine ravages the land, and the brothers return with more bad news. Jacob’s response: “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me” (Gen 42:36 ESV).
And here’s my point: I’m sure it seemed like that—I’m sure it seemed to Jacob that all these things were against him. It seemed that way because he could not fathom that all those years of suffering and loss were necessary for his own good! Sure, we know how it ends – that God sent Joseph to preserve life (Gen 45:5), but Jacob did not know that. To him, everything was against him! But his suffering was not for nothing. The (temporary) loss of Joseph meant the salvation of Jacob, his family, and many other families. The very thing Jacob saw as “against him” was the means of his rescue.
After 22 years (let that sink in for a moment), Jacob is reunited with his son. On assessing his life, he tells Pharaoh, “Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life” (Gen 47:9 ESV). Sometimes, the enormity of the world’s grief drowns out everything else. The struggles of this life seem overwhelming. But even Jacob gained perspective. After living 14 more years in Egypt, Jacob can see the blessings that weaved through his story of struggle (see Gen 48:11 for example). At the end of his life, he says:
The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless […] (Gen 48:15-16 ESV)
Only at the end of his life – after years and years of struggle and sorrow – is Jacob able to see that God has been his Shepherd, guiding him all his life and redeeming him from all evils – from all the things that seemed to be against him, from the few and evil days he experienced, from his own sin and the sin of others.
We have an advantage that Jacob did not have: a more complete understanding of the promise; a clearer picture of victory. Because we see the cross. Because we see the empty tomb. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4 ESV).
Maybe your days seem evil too? Maybe you feel broken, like your life is falling apart. Maybe, like Jacob, you have experienced deep mourning and constant struggle. What might God be doing in your famine? In your loss? He is an expert at taking shattered pieces and making beautiful mosaics. Eagerly wait for the good God will bring (see Gen 50: 19-20). It will be beautiful and it will be worth it.
While Jacob felt that all things were against him, we know that all things work together for our good (Rom 8:28). While Jacob said, “All this has come against me,” we can say with Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31).
We know that our Redeemer lives and that, as Timothy Keller put it, “Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.” Jacob was able to look back and see good, and you will too. So, while you wait, join the psalmist in saying:
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps 103: 2-5 ESV)
About the Author
Anna Garas is a high school science and English teacher. She is currently working towards getting her counselling qualifications. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, telling them funny stories or having deep conversations. She loves adventures, especially in beautiful places. In terms of ministry, she has a passion for youth and missions, waiting for the day when there are no more unreached people groups; she also longs to see the abolition of human trafficking.