Wrestling with God

“So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he struck the socket of his hip so the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ ‘I will not let you go,’ Jacob replied, ‘unless you bless me.’ The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He answered, ‘Jacob.’ ‘No longer will your name be Jacob, ‘the man told him, ‘but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.’ “ Genesis 32:22-32

Have you ever felt like you were wrestling with God, wanting answers, wanting a blessing as Jacob did?

Fifteen years ago I had my own Jacob moment. My husband had just resigned as pastor of our church after ten years of faithful service. Conflict was dividing the church body and we thought it best to step down. Although it was our choice, it was still a very painful decision. For a ministry family this meant not only the loss of a job, but also the loss of our church, our place to worship, and many of our friends.

So many losses all at once left me reeling and confused. Wasn’t God supposed to keep bad things from happening to me? I had dedicated my life to serving Him, my family and I had sacrificed much for “the ministry”, and now we have lost it all. Where was God in all this? Thus began my night of wrestling with God.

My “night” lasted almost a year as I wrestled with God for answers. Why had this happened, why me, why now? I felt as if everything I knew about God was being tested; his goodness, his sovereignty, his love for me. It was as if I woke up after a wonderful wedding and honeymoon to find myself married to a stranger. And that stranger was God.

Jacob’s night of wrestling continued until daybreak loomed (Genesis 32), and when the angel saw that Jacob was not going to give up, he dislocated his hip. Still, Jacob held on. His wrestling turned to clinging until the angel pleaded, “Let me go.” “Not until you bless me, replied Jacob.” “No longer will your name be Jacob,” the man told him, “but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.” So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.”

Jacob was a changed man after his night with God. No longer was he called Jacob which means schemer, but Israel, which means literally “God fights”. This name replaced the name Jacob; it was both a promise and a call for faith. In essence, the Lord was saying that Jacob would have victory and receive the promises because God would fight for him. Jacob’s walk with God would never be the same.

As dawn appeared on my night of wrestling, I too was weary of the fight. My wrestling turned to clinging and then to resignation and acceptance. When the night was over I had no more answers to my questions than when it had started.

Catherine Marshall said, “I need you and your presence in my life more than I need understanding…I trust You to give me understanding and an answer to my Whys only if and when You choose.” God choose not to answer my whys. His reply to me was, “I AM GOD, that’s all you need to know.”

I have found that in my darkest hours, God has been silent. I have yet to understand why, but I know that in those days my faith narrows so that I focus only on Jesus. My faith seem to go backward as I cling to His promises with a baby-like faith that says, “I don’t know much about You or what You’re doing, but I know I need You.”

I did not come away from my experience with a limp but my walk with God was also changed. I no longer had the confident sometimes cocky walk of one who “had all the answers.” My walk was slower but surer. I believed in myself less and trusted God more. My circumstances had not changed but my heart had and I could say with confidence as Habakkuk did:Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Habukkuk 3:17-19

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