"Then the Lord said to Jacob, 'Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred and I will be with you.'" - Genesis 31:3
Today's lesson from the Old Testament (which includes most of Genesis 31) is a pretty bizarre tale of Jacob's hasty exit from the household of his cagey and manipulative father-in-law, Laban. Call it "Further Adventures of the Biblical Family." I especially like the part where Rachel sits on the purloined family gods, to conceal them from her father, Laban.
If Jacob is running from Laban, who was soon in hot pursuit, what he was heading towards wasn't all that promising either. Up ahead loomed his brother Esau. That would be the brother Jacob tricked out of their father's blessing, and whom Jacob has not laid eyes upon since that little episode.
So Jacob's situation is that he has, as the Grateful Dead put it, trouble ahead and trouble behind. Up ahead is a hairy problem, while another is breathing down his neck from behind.
Some days are like that. Some days seem overwhelming. None of our options appear all that great. Some days there's a crafty Laban, so to speak, on our tail and closing fast. Meanwhile, up ahead, looms another hairy problem, some Esau or another.
Real as these threats are, they aren't the only factors in the story. God has promised to be with Jacob, to lead him through. "I will be with you," God has said.
That promise is also for you and for me.
Sometimes when none of our options appear great, when we don't see a clear way forward, and when tension mounts on all sides, the very best thing we can do is just to turn ourselves and our situation over to God and God's care, to put ourselves in the hands of the one who has promised, "I will be with you," and then take the next step as best we can.
Actually, we don't have to wait until there's trouble ahead and trouble behind to surrender to God. We can do that every day. We can do it today.
Today, O God, I place my life in your hands and in your care, trusting the promise of your presence to guide and sustain me through life's challenges. Amen.
ATony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. Tony is the director of Festival of Preaching NW,which is coming up April 28 - May, 2014 in Seattle.