Have you ever felt like you were wrestling with God? You knew what you wanted, knew what your next move should be, but you just couldn’t get the edge. Can we ever really get “the edge” on God anyway? Yet, we often find ourselves trying to gain leverage, as if we could somehow overpower God.
In the book of Genesis, Jacob finds himself wrestling with God (found here). It seems that he’s been doing a lot of running lately. Running from his father-in-law and running from his brother, both of whom were angry with him. Jacob is following God’s instructions and returning to his homeland, but he knows that he will have to face his brother, Esau, soon enough. He’s not crazy about that idea, who would be? He cheated his brother out of his inheritance, Esau has great reason to be upset with him.
It seems that Jacob is tested often in his life, and in the midst of it, he is obedient. But obedience doesn’t mean that we always like that to which we are obedient, and Jacob was no exception. Jacob sends his whole family across the stream and then goes back to be alone. It’s there that he meets a man with whom he wrestles.
The passage doesn’t really say much as to why they wrestled. It doesn’t say that they disagreed or that they were angry with each other, but they wrestled for a long time, until daybreak. The man told Jacob to let him go, but he refused until the man would bless him.
Now Jacob has already come out of this situation different. He couldn’t be overpowered, so his hip was touched and he was forever changed, never to walk the same again. But his name is changed as well, changed to Israel. And Jacob finally realizes that this man whom he has been wrestling is not just any man, Jacob has seen the face of God and he names the place, “Peniel” because it means “the face of God.”
Jacob is forever changed, and he’s got a limp to prove it.
When we wrestle with God, we will be changed. It might not be what we would think as for the better though, but in God’s economy, it is. Remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12, that God’s grace is sufficient in spite of the thorn in his flesh. There’s no inference that Paul’s thorn was caused by anything that he had done, unlike Jacob’s hip which was caused in a wrestling match with God.
If you follow Jacob’s story from here on, does it seem worth it? He is used by God and he is a testimony to faith, despite circumstances that seem bleak and uncertain. God had Jacob’s best in mind, but we can never see as far as we like, and not as far as God has planned. That’s precisely why we need faith.
There have been times when I’ve felt that I have wrestled with God. Some of those times have felt as if God doesn’t play fair. But my perspective is jaded and limited, I can’t see as far as I think that I can. I’m sure there will be more wrestling matches with God, the question is, how hard will I fight and do I think I’ll end up on top? Whatever the outcome, I know that I will be changed, different, and I need to trust that God has my best in mind.