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Struggles with God and Men

Mrs. Covey, my fourth grade teacher, taught me a great life lesson. She gave each student in our class at Bernard Hoffman Elementary School two fertilized chicken eggs. We put our initials on the eggs, which were put into a glass-topped incubator. After the twenty-one day gestation period ended, everyone in our class gathered around the incubator to watch the chicks hatch.

We started rooting for the eggs with our initials as they began to slowly rock back and forth. Within minutes, cracks in the egg shells appeared as the chicks began to peck their way to freedom. Once a tiny beak broke through the shell, the cracks widened until the eggs split. Emerging from the shell, the wet chicks stretched their tiny legs and wings so they could pop up onto their feet.

We were so immersed in watching the first few chicks break out of their shells that it took us a while to realize some of the eggs had stopped rocking. Most shells were cracked, but several of the chicks were stalled by exhaustion. Mrs. Covey let us see the reality of the life and death struggle as it played out in front of us.

The egg shells that had provided protection and nourishment for the chicks during their gestation now became death traps for the chicks who gave up on their struggle for freedom.

There was a reason we made no attempt to intervene to save the lives of the chicks which gave up on their struggle. The process of breaking out of the shell is a crucial part of development for chicks. The effort which enables them to peck and kick their way out of the shell is essential if the chicks are going to be able to stand up and get food for themselves, and continue their growth.

The day after the last chick hatched, Mrs. Covey broke open several of the partially cracked shells. We saw that the chicks which had died looked almost identical to the ones which had lived. For some reason they had given up on the struggle to live. We each got to take our baby chicks home for a few days after they had grown up. It was fun to let my chicks out of their box and watch them run around in our backyard. Yet, I was haunted by the impression of seeing fully developed chicks which had died in their shells.

Genesis 32 reminds me that struggling is good. Jacob was returning to the Promised Land when he got the news his brother Esau was coming after him with 400 armed men. Jacob had deceived his brother years earlier and now Esau was seeking revenge. Jacob and his family were trapped as Esau’s army bore down upon him. Jacob spent the night wrestling with the Lord. Even though he was exhausted and in pain, he refused to give up the fight until God blessed him. At the end of the night, the Lord commended him and changed his name. Because Jacob struggled with God and men, his name was changed to Israel, “one who struggles with God.”

Jacob was not criticized by God because he struggled. He was honored and transformed. Not only did Israel become His name, but the name of God’s chosen people. Jesus was a part of Israel, and He too struggled with God and men. Jesus struggled with Pharisees, disciples and His own family. He struggled before going to the cross to die for our sins.

We all have to struggle with both God and men. We struggle in our families, with our friends and in our churches. We struggle to keep free from sin when are tempted. We struggle to understand God’s ways, and to be fruitful disciples. We struggle to keep believing in God’s goodness when our hearts are broken. Yet, struggle we must if we are going to overcome the world, the flesh, the devil, and reign with Christ.

My life has not unfolded the way I expected it would. At times, I have been disappointed in God, other people, and myself. I’ve struggled to keep trusting God and to understand the way the Holy Spirit works. I want to break out of the shells of unbelief and self-pity, so I can enjoy the goodness of God and see His kingdom come and His will be done. I’m thankful for the blessings the Lord has given me, especially for my family and friends. I’m thankful Jesus opened God’s kingdom for us, and called us into His family. I pray we will bear great fruit together.