Jacob in Despondency!
Francis Bourdillon, 1864
"And Jacob their father said unto them: You have bereaved me of my children! Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and you will take Benjamin away. All these things are against me!"
It did seem so indeed. Joseph, his best and dearest son, had long been lost. Simeon was kept behind in Egypt. And now they wanted to take Benjamin away — Benjamin, his youngest son, the child of his old age, and next to Joseph, his best beloved son.
Yet by the very things that looked so dark — God was about to bring him peace and comfort in his latter days. All things were even now working together for his good. Simeon was to be restored to him. Benjamin must indeed go away — but he would come safe back. And Joseph, the long-lost Joseph, would be found again — happy and prosperous, a great man in Egypt, but the same in heart as ever, his dutiful and loving son.
Little did Jacob know what all that was taking place, meant. Little did he know the goodness of God toward him, when he said in his despondency, "All these things are against me!"
We too are sometimes disposed to say the same. There are times when all things seem against us. One trouble comes upon another. We can see no help — and no hope. Nothing but trouble seems around us — nothing but trouble seems before us. We feel quite broken-hearted. "All these things are against me!" exactly expresses the state of our minds.
But is it the truth? It was not the truth in Jacob's case. All things seemed against him — but they were not really against him. So it is in many other cases. Things are not so bad as they seem. Nay, perhaps when all seems as bad as can be — at that very time a happy change may be just about to come — and by means of the very things that look so dark! When Jacob had found his long-lost son and was happily settled in the land of Egypt and lived there in peace and plenty and honor, free from anxiety and with all his children round him — then perhaps then he remembered his own desponding words, "All these things are against me!" If so, what must he have thought of them then?
If we look at things with no eye to God — then we shall often be ready to say, "All these things are against me!" But if we remember God — then surely we cannot say so — at least if we have any knowledge of Him, any faith in Him, any love to Him.
Put aside the thought of God, and forget for a moment the end of Jacob's history, and how dark do his circumstances appear at the time of his using these words!
On the other hand, remember God — see His hand in all that had happened from the first sad loss of Joseph, all through the ups and downs of Joseph's life in Egypt, and all through the famine in the land of Canaan, up to the very moment when Jacob's heart failed him, but when God was just about to make him happy. See all in this light — and how different does it look!
We who know the history to its end, and how God was ordering all for good, and how soon the happy discovery was to be made — can hardly bear to hear Jacob say, "All these things are against me!" We do indeed feel for the aged man in his distress and despondency — but we know that all is on the point of turning out happily. A little more waiting in anxious fear, and Jacob will feel and speak very differently: "Joseph my son is yet alive! I will go and see him before I die."
Oh! How different it is, to see and to believe. Jacob was full of comfort when the happy end was come — and we can think of him with pleasure all through his troubles — because we know the end that was to be. But this is sight, not faith. If we walked by faith and not by sight, and if our faith were strong — then we would find comfort and encouragement even before deliverance came. For we know that without our Father, not a sparrow falls to the ground. And have we no words of His to encourage us, no promises, sure and steadfast? Why do we not believe, even when we cannot see? Why are we so downcast, when circumstances seem against us, though all the while we profess to believe in God as ordering all things and as hearing prayer? How weak is our faith, and how prone to fail! How apt are we to let dark appearances obscure all the light of God's Word! If we could see — then we would believe. True faith believes — even when it cannot see.
There is a sentence in the Book of God which alone should keep the believer from ever feeling as Jacob did. It is this: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
One of the most striking instances of the truth of these words was the very man who said, "All these things are against me!" The words themselves seem to show that often the things do not seem as if they were for good.
"We know" — as if it were said, "notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary — yet we know." And again, "that God causes all things to work together for good" — as if many of the things seemed in themselves to be working for evil, but were, nevertheless, joining in with other things and making up with them the whole design of God, and thus would turn to good in the end. Thus, even in this most comforting verse — there is room for faith. Indeed, without some measure of faith — we cannot get comfort from the Word of God at all.
It is the believer's happy privilege to know that, even when all things seem against him — they are not so really. For he has committed himself and all his concerns into his Father's hands — and He is all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving, and has promised that He will never fail those who trust in Him. He will surely keep His word. He will . . .
never forget them,
never overlook them, and
never cease to care for them.
He will . . .
watch over them for good,
preserve them from all real evil,
and bless them continually.
Things may look dark at times, but it is only the outside of things that we can see. However things may look, the same unchanging God and Father is still ordering all — nothing can happen without Him, and He does all things well!
Let us keep fast hold of this truth, and we shall never say, "All these things are against me!" Rather, in the darkest trouble — we shall see some light, some tokens of the hand of love that is doing all, some gracious sign that God has not forsaken us. And we shall gratefully join in the words of the Psalmist, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil — for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."
Christian! When all things seem against you, believe that God is thus dealing with you in order to humble you and lead you to Himself. He pities you — even while you are far off from Him. He would bring you near. Perhaps these very troubles — are God's appointed means to restore you. Seek Him from the very midst of them, from the very depth of pain, sorrow, anxiety, and fear. Seek Him in earnest prayer. Seek His mercy, His pardon, His grace. Plead the Name of Jesus. Approach the mercy-seat through Him. Ask that His blood may take away your guilt. Cast yourself upon the mercy of God in Christ — and then beseech Him to help you in every trouble.
Will He refuse your prayer? Surely not! All His Word says that He will hear and answer and bless His redeemed people.
If trouble is thus the means of bringing you to God — then it will prove your greatest blessing. Then you will never say, "All these things are against me," but rather, "Before I was afflicted I went astray — but now have I kept Your word! It is good for me that I have been afflicted — that I might learn Your statutes."