The Dreadful Place

The Dreadful Place

I just finished Genesis 28:10-22 in my Walking in His Promises Devotional Journal, which happens to be the story of Jacob and his dream at Beth-el. I’ve sort of digested it over the course of the last week, and have been amazed at the beauty of the simple truths found in the answers to the questions in the devotional. It occurred to me for the first time that, even though it was Jacob’s own fault that he had to run and even though he was on a mission to find a wife, Jacob was leaving everything, including his dying father and all the blessings he’d managed to scheme away from his brother. He was headed into a world about which he knew nothing. And that’s where God met him—in that land of uncertainty.

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God’s promise to Jacob (vs. 15) was not based on anything Jacob had done. In fact, Jacob had been a bit of a rascal, swindling his brother out of both his birthright and his blessing. God’s promise was based on the promises He had made to Abraham and Isaac. His promise was based on His grace, mercy, justice, and love. God chose to be faithful to Jacob because He is always faithful to keep His promises.

The significance of who God declared Himself to be also struck me. In verse thirteen He says, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac…” Instantly, I remembered the verses I had covered with my Sunday School class just two days prior. When talking to the Sadducees about the resurrection, Jesus said, “…have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:31-32)

Jacob probably felt like life was coming to an end, at least life as he knew it. He was leaving everything behind. He may have felt that his hopes and dreams were dying. But God is the God of the resurrection. He can restore that which has not just been lost, but what seems to have died.

God also revealed Himself to be the ever-present God, who finishes what He has started: “And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” (vs. 15) God does what is necessary to bring about His promises and purposes. It may require a long detour (and sometimes that detour is of our own making), but He will finish the work He has begun in us. (Philippians 1:6)

When Jacob awoke from the dream (probably sweating and trembling) he shuddered, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not…How dreadful is this place!” These two phrases all but knocked me out of my chair. In a sense, this is no new revelation. I know that God is in every situation, every circumstance, that comes up in our lives…but this week it hit home. God is in all our situations—even when we’re running from murderous brothers and sleeping on the ground with a rock for a pillow—even when we don’t know He’s there.

Sometimes life throws us situations, which seem dreadful—in our sense of the word. They are overwhelming. They introduce us to a whole new understanding of injustice. They reveal the pain of betrayal, or teach us the anguish of loss. But this is not what Jacob was talking about. When Jacob said that place was dreadful, He meant it was a place to be revered. It was dreadful, not because of the pain of leaving his family, not because of the sorrow of never seeing his father alive again, not because of the unknown future that lay out in front of him—but because God was there.

Maybe you are passing through a similar situation. Maybe you have been grappling with where you are supposed to be, who you are supposed to be, or even how to transition from a life of purpose to a life of simply collecting a paycheck. Maybe you are facing loss, the anniversary of a loss, heartbreak, betrayal, abandonment, or failures that seem to overwhelm you as the waves upon the shore. Remember, God is faithful to His promises and His purposes. He is present in this place and situation. He will finish what He has started.

Maybe your heart feels as though it has been ripped in two and spilled out. Maybe your dreams, your passions and your purposes seem not to have simply died but to have been murdered. Remember, God is the God of the resurrection. He can restore what has been lost—bring it back to life—perhaps making it far better than it was before.

When we are in the dreadful place it is tempting to run, but that is because we are looking only at the pain. There is much pain in the world today: in Nepal, in Baltimore, in other places where lives have been ruined seemingly forever. Perhaps, even in your home. Don’t run. This is a place to be revered. Staying isn’t easy. It means patient waiting. It means prayer. It means resting when we feel the urge to fight. It hurts. But this is a place of promise. So stay—because this is where God is.


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I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Promises Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.