Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2017 Feb 15
Jacob and Esau. The twins who fought, even in the womb. Animosity ran thick as they battled for their parents’ affection. Esau was loved by his father, and Jacob was his mother’s favorite.
It started with the birthright, when Jacob convinced his starving brother to sell it for a bowl of soup. Then, with his mother’s blessing, Jacob tricked his dad into giving him the blessing reserved for the oldest son.
A deceiver. Sinful from birth. Integrity was not high on his list of character traits.
Yet loved by God. Pursued relentlessly by God.
Wherever Jacob ran, God was right there calling him home, calling him to surrender to the One who loved him.
As Jacob was fleeing the fury of his brother and running to his Uncle Laban, he stopped to sleep.
As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. …What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” Genesis 28:10-15
Despite his deceit, God was calling him, promising to bless him. Jacob was at the foot of heaven, encountering the Holy God of his ancestors. God was calling him—the deceiver—to a relationship with the God of his fathers.
But Jacob wasn’t ready to surrender. Intrigued? Yes. But he wasn’t there yet, not ready to fully trust the God of his ancestors, the God he had heard about but never personally encountered. He marked the place of his dream, named it Bethel, and made this vow:
“If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.” Genesis 28:20-22
And on he went, continuing his trip to his Uncle Laban’s, running from the mess he had created back home with his deceit.
God went right along with him, pursuing him, calling him to surrender.
Jacob might have met his match in his Uncle Laban. The two were very much alike in their deceitful ways. But, Jacob worked faithfully for his uncle, marrying his two daughters and increasing his uncle’s wealth.
Eventually, Jacob grew tired of Laban’s ways and decided to take his wealth and flee. First fleeing his brother and now fleeing his uncle. He packed up his wives and children and flocks and herds and took off, hoping his brother had forgiven.
Right on his heels was Laban, chasing him down. But God warned Laban not to hurt Jacob. God was watching over him, protecting him, even as he ran yet again.
As Jacob started on his way again, angels of God came to meet him. When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, “This is God’s camp!” So he named the place Mahanaim. Genesis 32:1-2
Again, God was there, pursuing Jacob. Jacob hadn’t chosen God, but God had obviously chosen Jacob. Wherever he went, God was with him.
Finally, the moment arrives. He’s within a short distance of his brother, Esau, the one who had vowed to kill him at their last encounter. I’m certain the fear was mounting, the dread of the encounter. Jacob would meet his brother, take responsibility for his actions.
Maybe, just maybe, this God who was relentlessly pursuing him really would be faithful, would keep that promise he made. Maybe, just maybe, he could trust this God of his ancestors.
So Jacob paused, took a step toward surrender.
Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. Genesis 32:9-10
He sent everyone ahead of him, carrying gifts to his estranged brothers. He hoped to appease his anger, to soften his heart before they saw one another. But now, he just needed to be alone.
This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” … Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. Genesis 32:24-26, 30-32
In the solitude, he found himself wrestling with God. This encounter was the life-changing moment he needed, the one where he fully surrendered. All the moments before. All his sin. All his deceit. Everything came crashing together in one final moment, a night where he wrestled with God, erasing all doubt and solidifying his faith in God. Trusting that the God who had relentlessly pursued him through every twist and turn of life would be faithful to keep his promises. Finally taking the God of his ancestors as his own.
The God who relentlessly pursued Jacob? He’s the same God who relentlessly pursues us. In our pain. In our sin. In our successes. In our failures. When we are faithful. When we are faithless.
He’s there. He’s calling us, wooing us to let go of everything, to trust Him with our very lives. He’s beside us. He’s promising us that every painful circumstance can be used for His purpose, for our good when we leave it in His hands. He’s around us. He’s putting His angels around us, protecting us, guarding us, from those who would wish us harm.
There’s nothing in this world that can keep Him from us. There’s nothing He can’t overcome. There’s nothing that will stop Him in His pursuit of us.
All He wants is for us to surrender, to let go of our burdens and our fears, our shame and our guilt, our sins and our failures. He wants us to turn it all over to Him, to let Him take it and make something beautiful. He wants us to trust Him, fully and completely, to take Him as our very own.
Will you surrender to the still, small voice calling you to Himself? He’s waiting just for you.