Wrestling with God

Bible Reading: Genesis 31; 32; 33

"Your name will no longer be Jacob ["he grasps the heel," or figuratively, "he deceives"], but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." (32:28)

True to his name, Jacob's relationships with his twin brother, father and father-in-law were all marked by deception and dishonesty. Jacob struggled with men until he finally struggled with God. On Jacob's way back to his homeland, God appeared to him one night in the form of a man and "wrestled with him till daybreak" (32:24). During the struggle, the man "touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled" (32:25). When the man tried to leave at daybreak, just like Jacob had grasped the heel of his brother at birth, he grasped the heel of God and wouldn't let him go until he blessed him. Because of his struggles, Jacob's name, as well as his character, was changed from "deceiver" (Jacob) to "the one who struggles with God and overcomes" (Israel). No further deception is recorded about Jacob after that incident.

I, too, have wrestled with God. I have earnestly sought God for understanding in difficult circumstances, for direction in uncertain times, and for victory over temptation. I have pleaded, questioned, cried, studied and strained to hear God's voice late into the night, early in the morning and in each spare moment. I have insisted on knowing God's truth, believing his love, claiming his victory, and receiving his blessing. I have refused to give up the fight, to walk away from a God who loves me, or to let go of the victory God wants me to have.

For a while, I tired of the struggle and my heart grew numb. I settled into doubt, despair and defeat while Satan whispered lies in my ear. God waited patiently while I sat on the sidelines and nursed my own wounds. Then he gave me some good friends to shout his truth in the other ear, shove me back into the fight, and cheer me on.

The struggle was never short or easy. My heart wrenched with pain as I wrestled with God. My soul grew tired as I desperately grasped his heel and hung on. I was humbled as he dragged me along the ground and exposed my weakness, failure and pride.

When I endured to the end, though, I received God's blessing and the struggle changed me! It turned my disappointment to delight, my doubt to faith, my turmoil to peace, my human frailty to God's overcoming victory. I am no longer one who deceives, but one who overcomes! God is no longer my opponent, but my faithful friend. I am no longer eating dirt, but am sitting down to "wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19 LB).