“Do you want God to use you greatly? Then He must wound you deeply.”
Have you ever heard this? It’s actually a popular re-working of a quote from A.W. Tozer, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”
The quote troubles me. It has become a fairly standard way for pastors to illustrate the concept that God will use someone’s past as part of His greater plan once that person surrenders to Him. The worse the past, the greater use God can make of it. Scripture bears this out with examples, but it’s the wrong quote to be used to express that concept because the quote itself, on its face, doesn’t say what these pastors are using it to say.
The plain meaning of the quote itself says two things to me: 1) God won’t use me (or only use me minimally) unless I’ve been “wounded” or “hurt” in a serious way (why would I sign up for that??); and 2) it’s God Himself who’s doing the wounding/hurting.
Let me say right off that I do not believe that we must be wounded to be used “greatly” by God. That’s just silly — the notion places a higher value on salvation following a sordid life of sin than a life lived in faith and trust in God from an early age. Neither of those salvation experiences will be counted as more useful to God. So I’m not struggling with that part of the quote, because I’ve already dismissed it.
But I am struggling with Tozer’s assertion that God hurts us in order to use us. Does God hurt us? Or does He just allow us to be broken by our own sin and the sin of others until we are ready to surrender to Him? I don’t have an answer for this one. Before considering Jacob’s wrestling match with God in Genesis 32 (as I was required to do during the Sunday morning sermon), I would have told you unequivocally that God does not wound us; sin wounds us.
Because it just seems to me that our deepest wounds often come as a result of the consequences of our own sin and not as a result of God smiting us. This was true even for the Israelites, God’s chosen nation:
“‘Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.” (Jer. 2: 19).
Now, I do acknowledge that bad things happen to us that are beyond our control and that we have done nothing to deserve them, but they can be traced back to Adam’s fall and the entry of sin into the world. Sin brought disease and death and we all suffer the consequences of living in a world full of sin.
But God wounded Jacob — He physically wounded Jacob. Jacob may have walked with a limp for the rest of his life because God touched the socket of Jacob’s hip after an all-night wrestling match “so that his hip was wrenched”. It would be easier for me if this story was worded in such a way that Jacob was wounded merely as a result of wrestling with God, because then I could place some blame with Jacob for wrestling with God in the first place. Why not just surrender, Jacob? What do you think is going to happen when you wrestle with God all night? You’re going to get hurt, that’s what!
But becoming wounded as a result of the match is different I think than God ending the match by wounding Jacob. The former is a result of Jacob’s stubbornness; the latter is a result of God calling an end to it with physical pain. I’ve read several opinions on what these verses mean and none of them address the fact that God hurt Jacob — that God inflicted the pain Himself.
So . . . where am I? I want to believe that God does not wound us; sin wounds us. Am I naive? I still have a week or two before this section of Genesis will be examined under the microscope in CBS, but I refuse to look ahead to that lesson because I would like to wrestle it out with God myself.
I am going to try not to get wounded in the process.
Feel free to jump into the wrestling match in the comment section below.