When You Wrestle with God
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So today, I thought I should simply be real.
For me, the past few weeks have been filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows. Wonderful travel and fruitful ministry have become neighbors with deep heartache and devastating loss. I’d love to report that I’ve skated through the grief unscathed. But that wouldn’t be accurate.
In truth, I’ve wrestled with God.
Questions like, Why didn’t you answer our prayers? What is the purpose of all this? Why do some people seem to have more than their fair share of heartbreak? How do the godly grieve loss (of any kind)? have spun around my head more than once.
You–like me–have probably wrestled with God a time or two.
And it occurs to me: anytime we struggle to grasp God or His ways, we wrestle with God and His will.
The notion of wrestling with God makes many of us uncomfortable. It might even make us think something is wrong with us, or with our relationship with God.
Wrestling with God has certainly made me feel a bit off my game–pastor’s wives and Bible teachers aren’t supposed to wrestle with God.
Or are they?
I’ve come to the conclusion that wrestling with God isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, wrestling with God can lead to blessing from God.
If we don’t let our wrestling become defeating.
Wrestling with God can lead to blessing from God.
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This was true in the life of the patriarch, Jacob, who became known as Israel (Israel was a person whose descendants became the nation); it is true in our life as well.
Four Lessons Learned from Wrestling with God
We Wrestle Alone (usually)
Genesis 32 records the story where Jacob wrestled with God. Verse 24 reads,
“Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.”
Wrestling with God is an intensely personal matter. Like Jacob, we often wrestle at night, when the distractions of the day dim, and the secrets in our soul seep to the surface. Sometimes though, wrestling takes place at odd, almost unexpected moments–making dinner, driving down the highway, taking a shower. Wherever, and whenever, the wrestling takes place, we are typically alone physically, or privately alone in our thoughts.
2. Wrestling with God Can Take Awhile
“…And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.25 “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’”
Jacob wrestled with God all night long. Have you, or has someone you love, been wrestling with God for a while? Don’t despair! You aren’t the first. Wrestling can be intense and prolonged. It was for Jacob. It might be the same for you or your loved one.
3. The Secret to Wrestling with God Is Found in Three Words
“But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’”
What is the elusive secret to wrestling with God in a way that ends in victory rather than defeat? Three words…
DON’T. LET. GO.
Jacob wrestled with God. All night long.
But Jacob did not–would not–let go. Herein lies the beautiful, life-altering secret to wrestling with God.
Too often, I’ve seen people wrestle with God and, as a result, give up on God.
But you can’t get blessed by God if you let go of God.
You can’t get blessed by God if you let go of God.
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God’s blessing comes to those who hold on to God with every fiber of their being, even as they wrestle with God over the very fabric of their believing.
In the past few weeks Jacob’s words have become my words: “I will not let you go…” Even in the wrestling.
Especially in the wrestling.
Are you wrestling with God over some issue, dear friend? Some question? Some concern? Some heartache, or setback, or circumstance?
If so, make up your mind. No matter how much you wrestle, pronounce Jacob’s resolve over your life and your faith: I won’t let go.
I won’t let go of God’s character. (He is always good)
I won’t let go of God’s Word. (It is always true)
I won’t let go of God’s faithfulness. (He will never leave me or forsake me)
I won’t let go of God. Period.
No matter how I feel.
Or how things look.
Or what other’s say.
Like Jacob, I will declare, “I won’t let go until you bless me!”
4. Wrestling with God Will Change Our Walk with God
27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered. 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.”
Jacob refused to let go of God and–as the text tells us–he “prevailed”. Eventually, the wrestling came to an end. But not without a result.
God blessed him.
And God changed him.
When we wrestle with God and refuse to let go, we experience God in a deeper way. Like Jacob, our struggle allows us to see God face-to-face, and experience God up close and personal.
Those who wrestle with God (and prevail) get the blessing of knowing God more intimately and loving God more fully.
But there’s more! After Jacob wrestled with God he never walked the same again. Yes, he had a limp–but this served as a permanent reminder of his personal encounter with God.
Wrestling with God can deepen our faith or destroy it. Either way, wrestling with God will change us.
And for those who don’t let go, God’s blessings wait just beyond the wrestling.
If you are in a season of wrestling, here are a few suggestions to help you hold on God:
- Read your Bible: You need God’s perspective now more than ever!
- Go to church: Don’t stop being connected with other believers–you need support and encouragement!
- Don’t stop praying: Keep talking with God. Pour out your heart to Him and let Him pour in His wisdom to you.
- Praise: Crank up the worship tunes and sing! Write down why God is worthy of your praise. Thank God out loud. Nothing realigns our perspective more than praise.