“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” I love this scene in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Poor Elizabeth Bennett had received a very unwelcome proposal, which her mother insisted she accept, and her father insisted she decline.
Judah and his brothers were between a rock and a hard place too (Genesis 43:1-14). Jacob their father, was insisting that they go to Egypt to fetch ‘a little more food’. Sounds like they were nearly out of money to buy it too. Judah was adamant there was no point unless Jacob allowed his youngest, most favoured son Benjamin to accompany them, since ‘the man’ selling them the grain in Egypt would not countenance them without Benjamin being there.
I find it quite ironic that Jacob, the man who forced his brother Esau to hand over his birthright in order to satisfy his hunger, was himself forced to relinquish his son to assuage his own hunger. And relinquish he did. Biter bit! What goes around, comes around.
So for Judah and co. the squeezing between Jacob and Joseph was done. Hunger won the day. They took Benjamin and went on their way to Egypt. But for many of us, that sensation of being under pressure between two parties is a common reality. Work and family. The in-laws on both sides. Church and your spouse. Conflicting needs of two of your kids…
The heart of the problem is that we want to please both parties, and end up feeling like a punch-bag in the middle, trying to reconcile the requirements on both sides.
- Firstly, we need to be God-pleasers, not people-pleasers; what is he saying about it?
- Secondly, we need to remember that God loves us too. Recognizing my own needs does not make me a heathen.
- Thirdly, just because people demand of us does not mean they have a right to a piece of us, and sometimes we have to say no to one or both parties.
And sometimes, as with Elizabeth Bennett, it’s worth holding out for a third way. Sometimes we have to be really radical and reassess the whole situation. You don’t have to be a victim; God gives us power to be overcomers.