“Surely the Lord is in the place; and I was not aware of it” (Genesis 28:17).
We associate the words “rock bottom” to describe disgraced politicians, drug addicts, alcoholics or anyone who experiences the consequences for their actions. The words can also describe anyone experiencing disappointment, frustration or depression. Stephen Covey names two things that motivate people to make dramatic changes in their lives: inspiration and desperation. There is tremendous power in hitting a low-point in life, because it can force us to consider serious changes.
Desperate. That’s how I imagine Jacob in Genesis 28:10-17. As he leaves his family, flees for his life, seeks safe haven from Uncle Laban and hopes to find a wife, I imagine his worries as he travels. What kind of reception would he receive from Laban? What could he possibly offer as a dowry? Could he ever return home? I have to believe that he is experiencing guilt for being the worst kind of liar and thief – he deceived his blind, elderly father, and stole from his brother. Jacob is desperate.
But for Jacob, it was not just desperation at work in his life. There was also inspiration.
Jacob, as shepherds often did, propped his head on a stone and slept under the stars. In his sleep he saw a stairway reaching from heaven to earth, with angels ascending and descending upon it. At the top was God.
One might expect God to rebuke Jacob for trying to work out his own plan, instead of trusting God. Instead God reminds him of the promises he gave to his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham, that He plans to bless the world through him. Jacob realizes that God is with him, which gives him inspiration to continue his journey.
Jacob’s ladder reminds us that God is still working in us even when we reach the point of frustration and desperation. This should inspire us.