It seems like conflict is always with us, especially within unsettled and unforgiving families. Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, had many conflicts throughout his life that seemed to follow him wherever he went.
In Genesis 31, we read the account of Jacob leaving his father-in-law’s (Laban’s) oppressive ranch environment so that he could travel to his place of birth. Jacob had had a disagreement with Laban and thought it best to flee rather than reason with him.
But as Jacob fled, he had to contend with two serious confrontations: First, there was Laban who was outraged about the manner in which Jacob had departed. Then, there was his brother Esau from whom he had stolen both inheritance and blessing. Both men confronted Jacob in the middle of the desert.
Jacob’s meeting with Laban went reasonably well. After dealing with Laban, Jacob would soon meet Esau as well. This would be the first time in twenty years the two brothers had seen each other. And when they had last parted, Esau vowed to kill Jacob. For this reason, Jacob was very fearful of this impending encounter with Esau.
Knowing that Esau was closing in on him, Jacob considered the options before him: He could try to have his brother ambushed and killed; he could run to another land; he could prepare his men for battle; or he could trust the promises God had given him.
In his earlier years, Jacob might have chosen one of the less godly options. Instead, after years of personal growth, Jacob dealt with this crisis by going to the ultimate Problem Solver – the Great I AM – God. He humbly confessed his unworthiness, but then asked for rescue, claiming the promises of God.
Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’” Genesis 32:9-12 (NIV)
Much to Jacob’s surprise, Esau was very gracious and kind to him and even offered his protection as Jacob and his entourage continued their journey. When we trust God with our relationships, He can heal conflicts and restore damaged relationships.
God desires such humility and trust from His followers. When we turn to Him with our conflicts, He delights to surprise us with an outcome or answer that we couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3:12-14
With whom are you in conflict right now? By trusting the Lord and obeying His Word above, how might you seek reconciliation with this person?
Think of someone you know who is estranged from their spouse or family member and pray for them. Ask God for an opportunity to speak into their lives and help them reconcile their relationship.