“I stopped trying to escape this fight or just trying to survive this struggle. A groan of stubbornness started to rise up in me and in some of those around me—a determination that this fight would not be in vain.”
Every email I’ve sent or received in the past two years started the same way, and I’m guessing yours have been the same: “I hope this email finds you well.” Do you know why we all write this? It’s because, after what we’ve all endured over the past few years, we no longer assume people are doing well. I like to think I’m characterized by words like “dependable,” “consistent,” “healthy,” “balanced” and “strong,” but I can tell you I have not always been found “well” in this season. It seems like everyone is struggling with something these days; everyone is trying to hang on.
My mind has recently been on the story of Jacob (Genesis 32:22-28) when he is sleeping all alone in the dark of night, having had his family leave him. Suddenly he is startled from his sleep and has to fight for his life with a being not from this world. The story goes on to say that the struggle, the wrestling, endures all through the night. Then, just as dawn is breaking and the sun starts to appear on the horizon, the story takes a left turn—something snaps and changes in Jacob. He is obviously exhausted from the struggle, yet he changes from trying to avoid the fight and becomes the aggressor. Determination replaces fear, stubbornness rushes into the place where panic once ruled, and he is now the one refusing to let go of his opponent. Jacob moves from trying to escape the struggle to hanging on and demanding that he receive a blessing from all his wrestling.
I started this season of struggle just trying to hang on and make it till the end. Two weeks to flatten the curve wouldn’t be too bad, we thought. Then weeks turned to months, and we scrambled to reinvent every corner of our lives. We had to figure out church, figure out school, and try to protect our older loved ones by giving them distance while staying connected to them. We saw the once faithful drift, the demands of pastoring increase, and our energy fade. I was hanging on for one more press conference, one more update, one more email, one more meeting. Then something started to switch for me around May of this past year. I stopped trying to escape this fight or just trying to survive this struggle. A groan of stubbornness started to rise up in me and in some of those around me—a determination that this fight would not be in vain. I’m at the point now where I’m hanging on and refusing to let go till I see a blessing for all this wrestling.
The wrestling changed Jacob! The battle changed his name and identity, and it changed the way he thought as he went from scheming to dreaming, and from stealing from people to blessing people. Jacob walked differently after this struggle—with a limp as a reminder of the divine encounter that forever marked him.
Personally, I refuse to come through this struggle the same man, father, husband and pastor I was when I entered it. I want a blessing from God after all this wrestling, and I’m hanging on with all I have. I want to come out of this season changed. I need God to show me my identity as He sees me, and not just the person I’ve created with talents, ministries and education. I want to think differently, talk differently, and walk differently. I don’t want to run as I once did at a pace dictated by events, urgent emails, goals and projects, but slow down to an intentional walk of following Jesus and His direction. I may be limping from the battles I have had to fight, but somehow I’m enjoying the scenery more as well as the company I keep.
Leaders, I know you’ve wrestled in this season physically, relationally and emotionally. But have you invited your spirit into the struggle? I believe the blessing we are to hold out for is a new awareness, a new connection with the Holy Spirit.
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all
people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will
dream dreams, and your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28, NLT).
From this passage, one sign that you are filled with the Spirit of God is that you’re looking forward. Prophecy speaks to our tomorrows. We don’t need a dream for our past, and we don't need visions to see yesterday. A fresh blessing of His Spirit lifts our heads to look forward with dreams, not back with regret and longing.
Recently I found myself sitting in the lead pastor's office of Times Square Church in New York City. If you know anything about the story of this church, you know of the late founding pastor, David Wilkerson, former gang member Nicky Cruz, and how the prayers, radical obedience, courage and faith of one man changed a city and transformed history. Sitting there, I realized that somewhere during this struggle I had stopped dreaming and looking forward. Sitting there, looking over the city, I felt a nudge from God to believe for more dreams again. There is so much yet to be done, so many stories to be written and adventures to be lived in the name of Jesus.
We can look back to the beginning of it all to find encouragement to look ahead.
“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the
deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface
of the waters” (Genesis 1:2, NLT).
This verse says the Spirit hovered over dark, empty places looking to create life. Read it again. The Spirit of God, who creates, breathes life, and empowers, was hovering over the darkness just waiting for a chance to do His thing! Friends, we could certainly describe the past few years as dark, structureless, formless and turbulent. According to Scripture, this means that we are perfectly positioned for a move of God! His Spirit is drawn to dark places, and we are candidates for some divine intervention. Feeling weary? Hang on to Jesus because a blessing of power is coming. Feeling panicked? Hang on to Jesus because a blessing of peace is promised. Feeling empty and formless? Hang on to Jesus because a blessing of new life is possible. I don’t know what this year holds; I don’t know how I’ll figure out church and the demands thrown at me. But I know there is a blessing in all of this wrestling if we just hang on and demand more of His presence.
Mike Miller lives with his wife, Nancy, and their two children in Halifax, N.S. Together they pastor Nova Church, a congregation they planted in September 2017
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2022 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2022 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos © istockphoto.com.