Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Widower Who Got "Stuck" In Grief

Two things are different about today's theme of Rolemodels. First, we're looking at a widower, not a widow. Second, he's a "what NOT to do" sort of rolemodel.

Rolemodels come from all walks of life, and all times of history. Today's is from ancient history, one of the patriarchs of the Hebrews, Israel himself, also known as Jacob.

I don't know why God loved Jacob so much. If Jacob knew me, I'm sure he could come up with a list of my unsavory traits and actions too. But I was kind of surprised by all the "simply human" traits I found while reading about him in Genesis. I was relieved too. If God could love Jacob, there's hope for me too! Here's what I discovered:
  • he couldn't get along with his fraternal twin, Esau, from the start.
  • he was a momma's boy.
  • he cheated his brother.
  • he deceived his father.
  • he was spineless.
  • he played favorites with his children.
  • he wrestled with God . . .
  • he was stubborn.
Jacob was also a widower. That's rarely mentioned, but his favored wife, Rachel died during the birth of their son Benjamin. His other wife, Rachel's older sister Leah, died years later, making him a widower twice over! Both of his parents died, and undoubtedly other friends, servants and relatives during his lifetime.

On top of all the loss, Jacob the deceiver was deceived himself. Ten of his sons sold his favorite son, Joseph, into slavery. If that wasn't bad enough, they then lied to their father, leading him to believe Joseph had been attacked and killed by wild animals while on an errand for Jacob.

Perhaps Jacob blamed himself for the supposed death of Joseph. Here's the bitter way he chose to grieve over Joseph from Gen. 37:34,35--
So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.” So his father wept for him. (NASB) (Italics mine)
That line I put in italics drew me up short. With the rest of his family around, his eleven sons---some with wives and Jacob's own grandchildren---Jacob refused to be comforted. I know what it's like to grieve and mourn, and to not find the comfort I yearn for . . . But to refuse any comfort that's offered???? My heart goes out to him in his deep grief. In addition, do you see the vow he makes? He declares he will go down to Sheol---which means go to his grave---in mourning for his son . . .  What is he setting himself up for?

What will happen to a man who refuses to be comforted and makes a promise like that? Let's think about Jacob for a few days, and check next Wednesday to see how these decisions affect him and his family.

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