As a pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Kyle Idleman has pastored and counseled thousands. Over the years, he’s noticed a particular theme emerge from those he connects with and realized one important thing: we all need encouragement. We need hope to get through the darkness. No matter our struggles, no matter our story, we desperately need to hear these words: don’t give up. Here Kyle writes about the story of Jacob in Genesis 25-33 and how we can draw inspiration and encouragement from this figure in the faith hall of fame. It’s a grace to welcome Kyle to the farm’s front porch today…
There is a lady who sits in the front row at the church where I preach.
She and her husband, David, have sat in those seats every weekend for years.
David and Annie always seem to engage with the message as they reference the open Bible that they share. David is a professional motivational speaker, so I know it would be easy for him to sit and criticize my delivery. But this couple is always positive and encouraging.
My eyes filled with tears when I learned that Annie had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I prayed for them and asked God to heal her and to fill her life with his courage. The cancer metastasized to her lymph nodes. She went from being a personal trainer to receiving radiation treatments five days a week.
When she felt like giving up, she kept fighting. She wrestled. She hung on to God and refused to let go.
In the wrestling, she discovered a blessing.
Here’s the way she expressed it: “God took my physical brokenness and turned it into something wonderful. He did not make me like I was before cancer.”
She talks about some of the gifts that God gave her in the struggle.
She discovered a deeper joy. She developed greater mercy and love for others. She felt free from many of her fears and anxieties, because she had no other option but either to quit or to trust God.She found a new purpose and ministry for her life.
God doesn’t want to leave you like you were before the addiction, or abuse, or affair, or relationship, or financial devastation, or diagnosis, or failure. He wants to bless you and introduce you to a whole new world of meaning and opportunity.
But sometimes you have to fight through the night to get to the blessing.
Jacob receives a blessing from God. He is given a new name. But he doesn’t escape without a scar.
Verse 25 records that during the course of this wrestling match, the man touches Jacob’s hip. The Hebrew word translated “touch” literally means a light tap. It’s like gently touching someone on the shoulder when you don’t want to startle them.
Which gives you a clear indication that the angel of the Lord had dialed it down for this cage match—like an MMA champion who is wrestling with his toddler son. This “light tap” is enough to rip Jacob’s hip out of its socket. Though Jacob is given a new name, he will walk with pain and a noticeable limp for the rest of his life.When you don’t give up, there is a blessing for you on the other side, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a limp.
Jacob wrestles with God and comes out of the match both blessed and broken.
He has a limp that he’s going to have to live with, but the limp is a reminder of the blessing. He has a scar now, but when he sees it, he remembers the struggle and the blessing that came from it.
Maybe you can look back at a time in your life when you were ready to call it quits, but instead of giving up, you turned to God and fought through it. In hindsight, you wouldn’t ever want to go through that again, but you’re thankful that you did.
My wife’s grandfather was a pilot in World War II. When he talks about being in battle, he describes it this way: “I wouldn’t give you a nickel to go through that again, but I wouldn’t trade it for a million dollars.”
It was hard. It was painful. It’s still difficult to talk about. But he’s thankful for what he learned and the man it made him on the other side: blessed and broken.
Jacob is reunited with his family and servants, and eventually he has no other option than to come face-to- face with Esau—his older, stronger, warrior brother whom he has cheated out of an inheritance.
Jacob prepares a generous gift, hoping it will appease Esau’s anger. When Esau is still a ways off, Jacob bows down to his brother. And he looks up to see his older brother running right at him. Taking him in his arms. Pulling him tight, kissing him with tears of joy.
The two of them stand there, arms wrapped around each other’s necks, crying without shame (Gen. 33:4). It’s a beautiful scene, and also a sad one—sad because it took so much longer than necessary.
Whole decades of brotherly camaraderie have been lost. Maybe Esau wasn’t ready until then.
But maybe he was. Maybe a month after it happened, his heart started to soften. Maybe it was a year after the betrayal when the bitterness finally melted away.
If Jacob had summoned the courage to humble himself sooner, maybe this family would have been reunited twenty years earlier.
If you have the courage to stop running and decide that you are going to fight through the darkness and not give up until you reach the other side, you will discover God’s power and presence.
But you may also discover a reconciled relationship, a renewed purpose, or a new identity and hope for the future.
Kyle Idleman is teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, the fifth largest church in America, where he speaks to more than twenty-five thousand each weekend. He is the bestselling and award-winning author of Not a Fan as well as Grace is Greater. He is a frequent speaker for national conferences and in influential churches.
The parent with the wayward child. The couple whose marriage is in jeopardy. The man who is out of work. The woman stuck in crushing debt. The patient with a bad diagnosis. The student who can’t get a fair shake. People hanging by a thread, losing faith and short on strength. What do they all need to hear? Don’t give up.
Our lives are minefields of challenges that take their toll on our courage, our conviction, and even our faith. But God whispers to the weary, Don’t give up.
Drawing from inspiring biblical stories and first-person testimonies of perseverance, Kyle encourages readers to cast their concerns on God, trust in His love and timing, pray for patience and strength, and seek out support in the family of God.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]