Why does God allow His people to go through some of the trials and conflicts they experience? The stories of God’s people in Genesis paint a portrait that helps to answer this question.
If we look at the life of Jacob, we see that he is a supplanter from birth. His name suggests as much; his conflict with Esau embodies his name, and his life will reflect this struggle to obtain God’s blessing. Jacob steals his brother’s birthright through manipulation (25:29–34). He later deceives his own father in order to secure his blessing (27:35). In spite of Jacob’s many transgressions, God promises to bless Jacob, and particularly promises that He will not leave Jacob until He has done all that He has promised him (28:15). That’s an incredible set of promises. But the way God brings His blessings upon Jacob is not what he or we might have expected.
Jacob will soon indenture himself to Laban in exchange for Laban’s daughter Rebekah. Laban deceives Jacob and gives Leah to Jacob in place of Rebekah. Jacob, the deceiver, is thus deceived. By the time Jacob prepares to leave Laban, Laban has changed Jacob’s wages “ten times” (31:7). Laban persuades Jacob to stay on a while longer in what appears to be a great deal for Laban and a terrible deal for Jacob. Again, Laban tricks Jacob, and Jacob resorts to his own cunning.
God has to overcome the sins of God’s people and their foes, and he does exactly that. In spite of Jacob’s repeated weaknesses and the malicious plans of Laban, God blesses Jacob with the descendants he promised (twelve children who become the nation of Israel), and great prosperity (by the end of Genesis 30).
Why did so much of what God promised to Jacob come to him in the context of trial and conflict? The answer is that God’s blessings usually come to us not apart from conflict but through it. God does not promise us the absence of conflict, but that He will stay with us to guide, protect, and bless us in the very midst of our trials and conflicts.
Was it not the same for Christ Himself, Jacob’s greater son? He came into this world not to escape conflict, but to obtain the blessing of God for His people by enduring trials and conflicts.
God clearly gave Jacob a dose of his own deceptive medicine, but what Jesus experienced was undeserved. He endured trials and conflicts to be identified with us. We should learn to see our trials and conflicts in a similar light—means by which we are being identified with Christ.
This is one of the many blessings of being a Christian. Yet it usually comes not apart from trials and conflicts, but through them. With these thoughts in mind and our eyes fixed on Christ, we have greater strength to endure all things, knowing that our God will not leave us until He has done all that He has promised to us.