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Jacob doesn’t let this moment define his son’s destiny.


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16 Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. 17 And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” 18 And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19 So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20 and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. 21 Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. – Genesis 35:16-21

Perhaps you’re like me and label your bookshelves, or at least you find it helpful when someone else does. I’ve got specific labels for the mini library in my office and they help me know where to house and find the books I’m looking for. But, there are times when I have to make a decision as to how a certain book should be classified. Does the book fit more is under leadership or discipleship? Then I decide and place the book accordingly.

We face a similar challenge regarding certain events in our lives. We tend to categorize these events, but sometimes they don’t quite fit into just one category. Was it comedy and tragedy? Was it pain or formation? Was it a trial or a blessing? Often times the answer is, yes! It certainly was for Jacob. He was holding a newborn son, and burying a wife he dearly loved. Before Rachel died, she asked to name her son, Ben-oni which means, “son of my sorrow.” This was a fitting name to describe the circumstances of his birth. However, Jacob refused to label his son out of his present sorrow. Instead, Jacob chose the name Benjamin, which means, “son of my right hand.” He doesn’t let this moment define his son’s destiny.

Both parents saw the same event, but they didn’t label it the same way. Rachel saw the pain and sadness of her labor leading to death. Jacob was able to acknowledge this reality, lament it, but refuse to label it as such. He chose to see a promise underneath the pain. We have the same choice every day. How will we label the things that happen to us? Which category will we use to define them – pain or promise? As a simple reflection today, note a time in life when you labeled something out of sorrow – like Rachel did. In contrast, note a time when you decided to label something like Jacob – recognizing promise underneath the pain.


“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

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By Ryan Paulson

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