9 There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez[d] because his birth had been so painful. 10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request. (1 Chron 4:9-10 NLT)
Tucked away in the middle of a chronicle of names of the lineage of Judah is a little paragraph that has come to be known as the “Prayer of Jabez.” Jabez had a lot to overcome in his life. Jabez means “pain” in Hebrew and it makes me wonder why a mother would name her child that way. Imagine growing up and every time anyone called your name they reminded you of this fact. Talk about growing up in shame! Notice that this story does not dwell on that, though. His prayer to God is more of a focus than the pain.
There is a quote by Brene Brown that really spoke to me of this process: “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” Jabez could not help what his mother named him. I can imagine the other boys taunting him, calling him names. Maybe there were times he caught his mother looking at him in a certain way and feeling her remembering what she went through bringing him into this world. I can relate to this story because it could be the story of my life as well. So many of us have had hurtful things done to us that caused us to make bad choices. Shame is an insidious emotion. It hides and masks itself as so many other things. I can look back at my life and see that the root of so much brokenness comes from shame experienced at an early age.
What I love about these few verses is that Jabez was determined not to let his name define his life. He asked God to bless him and give him a larger arena to spread the goodness of the God he loved. He asked God to be with him, to guide him away from hurting himself and others. I believe he didn’t want to cause anyone else the pain he suffered! His focus was on God. “And God granted him his request.” Because of that, people don’t remember his pain–they remember his God!
God loves me so much! There are times I do not remember that. Instead of focusing on all the good He has done in my life, I can get caught up remembering all the pain from a long time ago. In all honesty, though, that pain is how He enlarged my territory. His love, faithfulness, patience, and teaching have given me a testimony to share with others. I have amazing stories of God working in my life, revealing His truth to me, and putting together the broken pieces of my life to reflect His beauty. The trouble and pain I suffered caused me to seek Him. I would not have the relationship I have with Him today if it were not for all that happened in my past. Like Jabez, I too have prayed a payer to the Lord. My prayer was to heal my brokenness, break the strongholds in my life, and use me to speak hope and God’s healing power into other people’s lives. “And God granted (her) request.”
9 I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
I will sing your praises among the nations.
10 For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. (Psalm 57:9-10 NLT)
Father, I pray that people will look at me and see my God, my Father who calls me “dearly loved.” You have loved me back from the depths of despair. At times, your saving grace will overwhelm me and I can do nothing but cry tears of gratitude and joy. I, too, will sing your praises for all to hear. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.