Several years ago, I found myself lying in pain on the hospital bed, recuperating from a slipped disc.
My former cell group leader was about to pray for me – but he said something which I did not like to hear.
He said God allowed me to suffer from my lower back pain, so that I could learn what it meant to walk with a spiritual limp (he was drawing from Jacob’s encounter with God in Genesis 32).
Since then, I remained curious about this account of Jacob. In Genesis 32:30-31, it was recorded that Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (face of God), for he had seen God face to face and his life was preserved.
Just as Jacob crossed over Peniel, the sun rose on him and he limped on his hip. I stopped short. The sun rose on him, and he limped.
Wait a minute, how did this connect? Why didn’t it read: The sun rose on him, and he welcomed the new day in exuberance or The sun rose on him, and he received new hope for the day?
You see, something had happened the night before. A communion with God had taken place. Matthew Henry puts it this way: “The sun rose on Jacob: it is sun-rise with that soul, which has had communion with God.”
So Jacob met God face to face the night before Esau met him. Jacob had been greatly afraid and distressed about meeting his brother, having cheated Esau of his birthright and stolen his blessing and inheritance in the past.
The Bible tells us that Jacob took his family and crossed the Jabbok River that night. On the other side of the river, Jacob sent over all his possessions. This left him all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until dawn.
When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then he told Jacob to let him go as dawn was breaking.
But Jacob said he would not let go unless the man blessed him. The man then gave Jacob a new name, Israel, because he had “fought with God and with men and had won” (Genesis 32:28).
Jacob’s hip – strong muscles there – had been put out of joint. His strength had been injured, and he had been humbled. Stepping into the new day, Jacob understood it was only by God’s grace and mercy that he was allowed to live.
Reading that got me thinking how each time my lower back flared up, I would remember that God’s grace and power was made perfect in my weakness.
Indeed, had I not been stopped in my tracks by this slipped disc, my physical and spiritual well-being would have suffered even more. I had been running unsustainably on a performance treadmill.
So my cell leader was right. Although I’m fully healed now, I had been humbled then to remember that I must always rely on God’s strength, not mine, and be empowered by Him.
As I battled the pain, the Lord also directed me to Malachi 4:2: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”
The Hebrew word for “wings” can also be translated as the “fringes of robes”. Indeed, Strong’s Concordance also recognises a broader meaning.
Kanaph (kaw-nawf); Strong #: 3671
Wing, extremity, edge, winged, border, corner (of garment), shirt
For a fuller understanding, we can thus translate Malachi 4:2 like this: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in the fringes of His robe. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”
Sound familiar yet? Do you remember the biblical account of the woman who had the discharge of blood for 12 years? With one touch of the fringe of Jesus’ garment – power went out from Him and healed her instantly.
This woman was healed in all aspects – physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually (Luke 8:45-48). And Jesus said to her: “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace” (Luke 8:48).
So what is it you are struggling with today? Are you in pain? Have you been wrestling with God over an issue in your life?
Like Jacob who would not let the man go, do not let Jesus go. Cling on to Jesus. Revere His mighty name and receive the power of His touch.
Choose to live well, for morning has broken.
- What are some reasons for pain?
- How should we respond if healing doesn’t happen?
- Who is someone struggling or in pain that you can encourage this week?