Zugzwang, pronounced tsook-tsvahng, is a chess term. It is a situation that whatever you do you will lose something.

Chess is an interesting and worldwide game. As a consequence many words have been coined in other languages and are now used in the game of chess. Zugzwang was coined in the years 1900-1905. Zug means move or pull, while zwang means you are constrained or obligated. When this happens in the game of chess you are in a position that what ever you do you will lose something. You have no choice, you have to move, you have to do something. The challenge is always to cut your loss and get out of the mess.

It seems to me this situation occurs in real life very often. We feel trapped. There is no way to get out of our situation. We have pondered, we have prayed, and there simply is no way out. This may prove true in the game of chess, but it is never true for a child of God. I suggest there is one move that always helps. It is the portal to every dilemma, the escape to every discouragement, and every disappointing circumstance. The move I recommend when your life is in Zugzwang —is the altar.

When life has you boxed in and there is no move that is without pain or confusion or failure -a trip to the altar is what we need. Many times we want a quick fix. The time at an altar cannot be pre-dispositioned. You cannot say I’m going to the altar and I’ll have my answer in one hour. Truth is it may be days, weeks, or years as it was with Hannah, Samuel’s mother.

Look at the Bible patriarch Jacob. He had a meeting with God at Bethel. Seemed his life was determined and things were fine. Over the next 20 years his life took shape and he became a successful wealthy man. And then there was Zugzwang. If he stayed where he was he knew there was potential trouble with his father-in-law. If he left and went back to his native land there was an angry brother waiting for him. No matter what he did, something was going to be lost out of his life. We know he found his answer at Jabok. The brook Jabok was an altar. When he arrived at Jabok he was saved. When he walked away from Jabok he had escaped Zugzwang. It was at Jabok the hopeless situation was resolved.

Most of us have had our Bethel. We have been saved. We attend church regularly. Most of us are involved in our local congregations. Many times our smiles hide our Zugzwangs. We are living somewhere between Bethel and Jabok. Our jobs, our marriage, our children, our health, COVID, can all have us in Zugzwang.

Go to Jabok.

Jabok will forever change you. That one experience will mark you for the rest of your life. It is the doorway out of Zugzwang.

Thanks for reading.