How does one find a way forward when they feel stuck in the mud? Robert J. Morgan tells the story of Jim Conway who was feeling a bit “stuck” in his situation. Morgan explains: “At midlife, a man begins to realize his body is not as strong as it is used to be, nor his wife as young. He often feels like a failure at work because of his accomplishments fall short of previous expectations. He’s caught between generations, having to care for aged parents just as his children are lurching through the teen years. When the kids graduate and fly the coop, it sometimes hits the father harder than the mother. Then come the college bills. All of this hit Conway like a sucker punch.”
Conway remarks: “I had literally come to the end of my rope. I was ready to leave everything and run away. I crawled into bed that November night and hardly slept as I made my plans. I was awake through most of the night, detailing specific steps that I would take as I left my present life and ran away to start another life…” (Robert J. Morgan, From This Verse, February 27th.)
As tempting as running away might seem… there is a better way: Going back to go forward. Jacob is a prime example of this from chapter 31 of Genesis.
Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.” 2 Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly. 3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Later while recounting what happened, Jacob tells his two wives:
6 You know that I have served your father with all my strength. 7 Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me.
11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 He said, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.
Basically God tells Jacob: “You didn’t out smart Laban with your antics. I turned the tide in your favor.” Then God says:
13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.’”
Eventually Jacob begins to hate his dream job. So he leaves to pursue the calling God had for him to in the first place. God reveals himself to Jacob here as… the “God of Bethel.”
Bethel was that place where Jacob saw the ladder stretching to heaven with angels walking on it. It was there that God revealed the calling he had for Jacob as the bearer of the blessing.
Who is the God of Bethel to you? For me He is the “The God of the Auditorium of Two Rivers Church in Nashville TN during a Baptist State Youth Conference.” I got down on my knees at the altar there and offered myself to full time Christian service. Where and when you surrendered to God’s call on your life is your Bethel.
In life we reach a point where we get weary. We threaten to not finish the race assigned us. Even Godly men and women become tempted to fall into an affair or to abandon promising career for something that doesn’t pan out. They have lost the fire.
Where can one find it again? Go back to the God of Bethel! It is at Bethel that you begin to understand why you are raising a family and why you have a job in the first place.
Jim Conway had fallen into a vicious depression. He said: “Repeatedly, I had fantasies of getting on a sailboat and sailing off to some unknown destination.” He was a pastor, a husband, a father and an author. But he wanted to run away like a prodigal and start a new life. He later wrote: “The midlife crisis is a time of high risk for marriages. It’s a time of possible career disruption and extra marital affairs. There is depression, anger, frustration and rebellion.”
So Conway went to bed thinking that the next morning he would plan his escape. Morgan writes: “But the next morning, as he starting reading His Bible where he had left off the day before, in Psalms 18, he found these words (or they found him); “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple…..He drew me out of many waters….You will light my lamp; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.” He closed his Bible. The healing had begun.
Have you ever had to step back to catch a glimpse of your calling before moving forward with the Lord? Who is “God of Bethel” to you?