“Love Story” (no, not the Taylor Swift song)

Posted: September 15, 2010 in Devotional Thoughts

The Problem of Evil/Pain is one of the hardest issues a Christian (or anyone) must deal with. The question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” has haunted just about every person on this planet. Of course, Romans 3:23 tells us there is no such thing as a “good person,” a point which is left out of the conversation many times. Perhaps because it is not very comforting to tell someone who is hurting, “Well, actually, you kind of deserve this.” Wow, sensitivity training may be in your immediate future with that kind of an answer! Or a night on the couch. So how do we approach, what C.S. Lewis called, “The Problem of Pain?” Well there are many angles and it has been written extensively on. However, I came across a small verse in the book of Genesis that encouraged me, and I want to share that with you.

Let me introduce you to Jacob (no, not the werewolf). Jacob was a trickster. Actually, he fooled both his father and his brother into giving him a birthright and the blessing reserved for the oldest child (the equivalent perhaps of your younger brother conning you into giving him your portion of your father’s will…not cool). But Jacob was not the only one out there with a deceptive nature. In fact, when he met a woman named Rachel, he fell turban-over-heels for her! In those days, it was only by the consent of the girl’s father that a man could marry her, so Jacob ends up paying a steep price–seven years of hard labor. How many people today love their significant other enough to work seven years for her? Now you see just how googly-eyed Jacob was!

On the last day of those seven years, Jacob punched out his time clock and came to Rachel’s father to receive his wife. However, he is given her sister Leah (not the princess) instead! Something in the fine print about “The oldest daughter can’t be married before the younger one.” What now? Work another seven years to marry Rachel. Fourteen years…you don’t find that on The Bachelor! However, you probably would see what happens after.

Now Jacob has two wives and of course they are just fine with that and everyone loves each other equally and fairly and they do double dates to Olive Garden and Jacob sits in between them. Yeah, right! Jacob has loved Rachel from the beginning, not Leah. So there begins a sort of competition between the two women to see who can bear more sons for Jacob (in those days, a woman’s value was seen largely in birthing and mothering the next generation. Different culture than ours, but you can see where the troubles would come in!). When the tally became Leah: 4 Rachel: 0, things got a little awkward. Rachel begs Jacob, “Give me sons or I will die!” God listens, and Rachel finally has a son named Joseph (and his future multi-colored dream coat).

Is Rachel happy? Maybe, for a time. But Leah by then had given birth to 6 children, compared to Rachel’s 1, and the joy soon wears off. Then Rachel lifts up a fateful prayer. “May the Lord add another son to me.” God does…and it kills her.

Genesis 35:16-20 recounts the tragic end to Rachel’s life. While they are traveling, she indeed gets what she asked for and gives birth to another son. But the labor is difficult, and she dies in childbirth. Not, however, before naming her son. Here is a powerful verse: “With her last breath–for she was dying–she named him Ben-Oni, but his father called him Benjamin.” (Gen 35:18) What is so significant about this? Ben-Oni means “Son of my Affliction.” Rachel was not satisfied, right up until the end. God was not enough for her. Jacob was not enough for her. Joseph was not enough for her. The tragic irony is that she pleads with Jacob “Give me sons or I will die!”, but it is the granting of that request that kills her. Even on her deathbed, she is focused on her affliction rather than the fact God answered her prayer. Not only that, but she is priviledged to be one of the Matriarchs for the 12 Tribes of Israel, from which Jesus Christ Himself would eventually come. Of course, she couldn’t see all of this in the future, yet she prayed to a God who did. How heartbreaking is it to focus on your pain and by so-doing completely miss the greater picture?

Jacob, on the other hand, puts his trust in God. Although the pain he was feeling must have been almost unbearable (losing the wife you loved enough to work 14 years for), he changes his new son’s name to Benjamin which means “Son of my Right Hand.” It is a name of honor, which both recognizes the blessing of a child and remembers the sacrifice of the mother. In the midst of his most painful circumstances, Jacob did not lose sight of the bigger picture. God had bigger plans than what Jacob could see, which would lead to the salvation of the world through Jesus. Jacob didn’t understand it all, but he had faith.

Are you hurting? Are you experiencing the trials of life? I know it’s hard to look anywhere but directly into the center of your pain, but there is hope beyond that. God is a God who can bring peace even through the loss of a deeply loved wife. What are you struggling with? Don’t lose sight of God and His goodness by dwelling on your immediate circumstances. Circumstances change, but God never does. Tomorrow may be a brighter day, but don’t let the darkness steal today from you. God loves you, even when it doesn’t seem like life reflects that. It may only be later when we can look back and realize He suffered with us, and carried us through the other side.

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