In college, summers were always hard for me. Away from the safety of my Greek IV community, I felt alone in my faith. It seemed like I was constantly struggling with God over the same old issues I struggled with before I met Jesus. And while my Greek IV community taught me how to follow Jesus, it was when I was away from our community that I had to learn to struggle with God on my own. As I struggled with him, he began to change me.
We see the same miracle with Jacob. Jacob, whose name meant “grabby”, had skated through life by cheating different systems to gain money, wealth and even the girl. One day, while he was alone, he met a stranger. This is where we pick up the story below.
Genesis 32:22-30 22
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 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. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered. 28 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.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Questions to Consider
- What areas in your life do you need to “wrestle” with God?
- What keeps you from wrestling with God?
- When challenging questions or tough situations come up, is it easier for you to watch Netflix or complain to friends, rather than “wrestle” with God? How can you remember to go to him first?
This story shows a man, far from perfect, who’s willing to struggle with God. Rather than give up, he asks God for a blessing. God blesses him by changing his name from Jacob (“grabby”), to Israel which means “one who struggles with God”. It wasn’t his wrestling talent that won God’s favor, but his willingness to struggle with God. God doesn’t look for perfection, he looks for those who are willing to struggle with him, through hard questions, tough times, and difficult situations. As we struggle with him, God will bless us by changing us into radical new people.
In our world we like to escape. We have multiple avenues to escape from tough problems, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram all lead us down avenues that allow us to avoid dealing with God. Our culture also encourages us to shut the door when we disagree with or are hurt by someone. The idea of wrestling with a friend to find reconciliation is about as strange as the idea of wrestling with God.
However, God wants the struggle. He isn’t afraid to debate politics with you, he isn’t scared of losing an argument, and there is nothing too tough or difficult that will cause him to run away. He will never abandon you, or yell or scream because you are struggling. And no matter how long you have to wrestle with God, whether it be days, months or years, he will always be there, willing to join you in the struggle. As you go to God through scripture and prayer, he will begin to transform you.
What do you need to wrestle with God through? What steps do you need to take to allow him to transform you?