In our journey through Scripture over the last several weeks, we’ve seen that God often gives dreams to His people not when things are going well, but in the midst of suffering, struggle, and pain.
Jacob was far from a “hero” for much of his life. Before his vision of a staircase connecting heaven and earth, he spent much of his life climbing and striving for the wrong goals. Because of his greed, enough was never enough. He deceived his older brother, stealing his birthright and his blessing. And, eventually, this life of deception caused him to flee for his life, leaving behind his father’s household and ending up alone in the desert.
But it is right there — in the middle of a lonely desert, on the run, with only a rock for a pillow — that God begins to speak to Jacob through a dream.
In his dream, Jacob is taken to a thin place, where heaven meets earth. And, unlike Wayne’s World, this stairway to heaven is open and God begins to speak.
Even more miraculous than a vision of angels commuting back and forth between heaven and earth is the voice of God speaking. As God begins to speak, He first reminds Jacob of who He is:
It is in light of who God is that Jacob can understand who he is. Jacob is more than the sum of his mistakes and screw-ups, greater than his greed, created for more than the mess he’s made. God renews the promise He made to Abraham — for the blessing of innumerable descendants and that all peoples of the earth will be blessed through them.
To Jacob, to all the undeserving, God makes this promise:
You will never walk alone.
In all of our heartache and pain, in the darkness and grief of our broken world, God is with you.
We serve a God of grace, faithfulness, compassion, and unending love.
This holy encounter changes Jacob’s life forever. His perspective is transformed. Jacob was given eyes to see what is real.
The episode entitled More or Less Human from the excellent podcast RadioLab contains a wonderful story about the power of changing your perspective. The work of neuroscientist Mavi Sanchez-Vives helps Josh Rothman, writer for the New Yorker, discover a new way of seeing himself (this segment begins around the 41:30 mark of the episode). He also wrote about the experience here.
Is God meeting you in the midst of your hardship and pain? How is God opening your eyes to see from a new perspective?
The words from the art curator in this clip about Van Gogh are so powerful: “He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, (but it’s difficult) to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world.”
Is God meeting you in a thin place in order to transform your pain into joy and magnificence for the life of the world around you? How can we speak and embody the faithful presence of God to our broken world?