Toward the end of Genesis, there’s a passage in the Bible where Jacob is shown wrestling with God,
“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’ Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there.” – Genesis 32:24-29
For a long time, these verses never made much sense to me. What was the point of wrestling with God? Why would the creator of heaven and earth even consent to such a random exercise? Of course, now that I’m older, these words have taken on new meaning for me. I’m sure the same is true for other Christians as well. How many of us can even make it through the week with wrestling with God in some shape or form?
In a guest post for The Gospel Coalition, Winfree Brisley reflects on how believers struggle with God by using her own sons as an example. Sometimes they wrestle as a way to foster friendship, but other times these games can turn into one child’s desperate attempt to get away from the other. The parallels between God and humanity are fairly striking. She writes,
“Sometimes we wrestle with the Lord as Jacob did and say, ‘I will not let go unless you bless me.’ We persist in pursuing the Lord and don’t give up until he has given us the wisdom, or peace, or contentment, or victory over sin we seek. We grow in relationship with the Lord when we bring him our questions, doubts, and fears and wrestle with him.”
“Most likely, we’ll not physically wrestle with the Lord as Jacob did—so what does our wrestling look like? We wrestle with him through prayer, talking to him about questions and concerns. We wrestle with him in his Word, searching its pages for truth that speaks to our situation, meditating on relevant passages, and memorizing verses that encourage or convict us. We wrestle with him through the wise counsel of others. As we hear the preached Word, read books and articles, and have intentional conversations, the Spirit speaks through godly people giving us truth and instruction to process and apply.”
Above all, Brisley prays her Christian readers will learn the difference between wrestling with God and wrestling against God. The distinction between the two can be sharp, but also difficult. As an example, I’d like to share about a time several years back when I was simply fed up with the Church. Following God hadn’t taken my life in the direction I had hoped. I was angry, and bitter, and I decided in that moment I was done living my life to please a community which had all but forgotten me.
To my surprise though, God would not be set aside. Like a scene from a bad comedy he kept showing up in a hundred different ways, speaking loudly even when I tried to ignore him. Finally, exhausted with it all, I remember sitting down on my bed and just asking, “What do you want from me?” The answer that came wasn’t what I expected, “Keep fighting.”
Perhaps you’re in a season of transition, but God still hasn’t shown you where to go. Maybe you’re just burnt out on Church itself, but you can still feel God pulling you back through those doors each Sunday. Wrestling with God can be draining, but as Brisley points out in her article, sometimes it’s only by wrestling with God that we are able to bond with him. So whatever you may be struggling with this week, be encouraged to step into the ring and meet God once again. We may leave the battle bruised like Jacob, but that’s a small price to pay in order to know God.
Written By: Ryan Duncan
What about you? What are your thoughts on wrestling with God? Please leave a comment in the space below!