Wrestling with God
January 11, 2013
Jesse Robinson, M.Div - General Studies
Jesse Robinson is currently finishing up his last year as an M.Div. student at Westminster Theological Seminary. Born in Texas, Jesse faced complications at birth that caused him to flatline twice. By the grace of God he survived, but was left with cerebral palsy, a disability that limits his muscle control.
Asked how his condition has impacted his walk with the Lord, Jesse says, “It’s a weakness that has required me to trust in God with a unique intensity. I’ve had to learn to be comfortable with weakness and suffering. My disability is very obvious, so I’ve become more sensitive to how others might perceive me. This condition has also caused me to wrestle with God. We all wrestle with God, but there’s an intensity and freedom I have in dealing this out with the Lord, because he’s the one who has given me this condition.”
Jesse’s parents taught him to love Jesus from an early age, though he had many questions. Growing up, he asked God, “Why would you do this? If you’re a loving God, why would you give me this condition?” His time at Westminster has helped him to address these questions with a biblical worldview. Jesse says, “I learned that there is meaning in suffering. I never wanted to say my cerebral palsy was suffering; I just wanted to see it as normal. Coming here, I’ve realized that suffering is a very important theological category through which we identify with the sufferings of Christ. We come to know Jesus as we are humbled and exalted at the same time in our suffering.”
When asked if there has been a particular class or professor who has helped him understand his disability, Jesse says, “I took Theology and Secular Psychology with David Powlison, which I believe is the best class at Westminster. Coming from an evangelical background, I had heard all my life that I was a sinner, but Dr. Powlison taught me that the cross addresses us not only as sinners, but also as people who experience deep suffering. Jesus takes on our sufferings, and he suffers both for and with us, and he promises us resurrection glory and hope, so I think that really helped me.”
Not many students who suffer with a disability would consider moving 1500 miles away from home to attend seminary. When asked how he decided to make the move, Jesse attributes much of his decision to Tim Keller (D.Min., ‘81), a well-known alumnus of Westminster. “I loved how he talked about social justice and the Bible, and I saw that he went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Westminster, so I knew I wanted to go to either of those two.” Westminster had a scholarship for students with disabilities, so he knew he could find support for his condition at Westminster.
When Jesse first moved here from Texas, he found a supportive community that he calls a “gift from God.” Jesse says, “The seminary community has been great in working with me and accommodating me with my needs. I can’t write very well, so I take my tests on a computer, separately from everyone else. Westminster has been very supportive in that way, and even more so in the things I’ve learned. Like I said, I’ve learned that Jesus gives meaning to my suffering, and that everyone suffers in some way as a means to be drawn into greater union with God.”
When deciding to come to seminary, he also wanted to find a school where he could get involved in a local church while studying. He currently serves at New Life Presbyterian Church in Dresher, PA (PCA) as a youth minister, and says that his seminary education has been extremely helpful in answering his students’ questions. “A lot of my kids have doubts about scripture. Westminster has helped me to think apologetically about scripture, and has also helped me to understand the human person through its counseling courses.”
Jesse is not sure where the Lord will lead him after graduation, but he asks that you pray for him to be content in living each day in humble love for Jesus, as he continues to wrestle with the sovereign God who provided a final answer to Jesse’s suffering on the cross.
If you would like to support the work of Westminster to train men like Jesse Robinson, please visit our online donations page here.