God Bless the Wrestlers!

There’s an odd story in Genesis 32 about a night when Jacob camped out alone and wrestled with God.

I love this story but I can’t say I understand it. There’s an air of mystery surrounding the exchange but it’s an important window into the heart of God.

The late night wrestling match was a turning point in Jacob’s life. God gave him a new name when it was done: Israel, meaning “he struggles with God”.

There is no sense of condemnation from God about this struggling. In fact, Jacob receives a blessing when it is done.

I understand this more now that I’ve studied martial arts. Our karate school is led by a man who has earned the title “Kyoshi”, a term of respect for an instructor of great skill. Kyoshi has studied and practiced the martial arts for almost thirty years. He is accomplished beyond all of his students.

And yet, some nights he will come out to the dojo floor, slip on minimal sparring gear and invite all comers to take him on. And the students line up with anticipation, especially the teen and young adult men and women. Knowing they will not win. Knowing that while one may last longer than another, none of them will prevail against him. Still, they gear up and get in line for a few moments to test their skills against the master.

It’s not about winning. It’s about the love of karate. It’s about the joy of sparring. It’s about deepening the relationship between instructor and student. It’s about maturing and testing that maturity against the measuring rod.

Likewise, God wants us to engage Him. This isn’t about rebellion; it’s about the working out of our faith. It’s about approaching the meaty issues of life, the questions, the inconsistencies, the disappointments, injustices and mysteries and taking Him to the mat for answers. He’s a big God and when we have big issues, He’s the one with whom to work them out. Not as a challenge to His authority but as an acknowledgement that He is the only One from whom we want our answers.

When I was a young woman, I took a job far from home. I was alone, lonely and full of questions about the direction of my life. I decided to spend some dedicated time with God. Every night for six weeks, I met with God alone. I wrote out my questions, I wrote out my worries and fears, I wrote out the pain of my past and then I set it all aside.

“God, I’d like answers to all of that so if you want to address any of it, great.” I prayed. “But what I really want is for you to show up here with me and teach me about who you are and about what you and I are about.”

And He did show up.

Night after night, I spent hours reading Bible passages that led to other Bible passages. I prayed. I wrote. I listened. I looked at the stars and read more Bible passages. I cried and listened some more. But God was there and He confirmed His presence by this:

As part of my job, I brought children from a group home to attend church, a different church every Sunday. For the six weeks of my dedicated time with God, there were certain themes that came up in my time with Him. A different theme every week. And for six weeks, in six different churches, with six different pastors, the sermon addressed the theme that I had studied in private.

During the last week, I thought I ‘d lost the connection with God. Every passage to which I felt led was a genealogy. I even sensed God calling me by a different name. Weird.

Well, that’s it. I thought. It couldn’t last forever. I’ve lost it, like a channel on the radio; I must be out of range. (Oh, me of little faith!)

That Sunday, when I entered the church of the week and saw the reference for the sermon, I laughed out loud. It was a lengthy Biblical genealogy! The title of the sermon “The Importance of Your Name to God.”

Those six weeks changed my life.

God didn’t address all of my questions. I didn’t gain the knowledge of the universe or the secret of life, although I did settle where I stand on certain debatable issues. I didn’t come away with a life plan or a vision for a new ministry or the cure for poverty. But I grew up in Christ. I came away knowing Him on a deeper level, trusting Him more, reveling in Him. I came away with a better idea of His idea of me.

Sometimes life is simple but often it isn’t. Sometimes life is the multiplication table but often it’s long division. Wrestling with God by searching the scriptures, asking questions, listening, honestly facing your concerns, openly expressing your fears, and trusting Him to show up with you is often the only path to breakthrough.

Jacob prevailed and was blessed.

So, God bless those who struggle with Him. God bless the great wrestlers of the faith. God bless those who come away from everything and everyone else to engage Him in a discussion of the matters that are closest to their hearts.

Do you need to wrestle with God? Make the time. He’s all geared up and ready to go.

Get in on the conversation

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    Isn’t it awesome how GOD always shows up!
    Blessings, andrea

  2. Mid Stutsman says:

    I am wrestling, oh, Sister, am I wrestling!! Just spent a week with my dysfunctional family and I came away with the realization that I am just as dysfunctional… Maybe I just saw myself as God sees me, and not as I had thought I looked to Him. Maybe I found out I was the smug pharisee instead of the humble sinner who cried out for mercy. Anyway, I am checking my parameters and submitting to the search lamp of God. “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me…”
    As always, your posts are such a blessing to me!

  3. Mary Moss says:

    He’s a big God and when we have big issues, He’s the one with whom to work them out. Not as a challenge to His authority but as an acknowledgement that He is the only One from whom we want our answers.

    This really stood our for me, Mid. I’m “famous” for saying, God’s working on me in the area – the truth is He’s always there! He’s not just stopping by – He’s moved in and planted roots!!

    I too have had those “Godincidences” where I had not doubt God was acting in my life – and had, in fact, gone ahead of me to prepare the timing and the circumstances in such a way that I would have no doubt (because He knows me:-)

    These days, God is teaching me about prevailing–and I’m learning! But I’m ‘stiff-necked’. I’m so glad God prevails with me! I love your analogy of God as “Kyoshi.”

    Thank you for this post – it blesses me more than you can know!

  4. Seek the Lord and He will be found, Andrea. Always true! 🙂

  5. Mid, we all have an endless need for that searchlight in our lives and trust me, we’re ALL dysfunctional. What’s important is to do what you’re doing – take our dysfunction to Him and work it out. Too many people just want to rest in their own dysfunction! Press in to God, Sis, we are designed to function best when immersed in His presence. Glad to have you drop by!

  6. Wonderful to have you drop in, Mary. Funny how God revels in choosing those of us who are “stiff-necked”! You have a beautiful spirit, Sister, because I know you spend time in His presence. God bless.

  7. Phoenix says:

    Please pray for me… seems there’s a ‘match’ ahead for me too. Great timing!

  8. Greg says:

    Hi, Lori. I stopped by because of your neat comment on Randy Alcorn’s blog, and I’ll definitely be back. You have a gift for writing.

    I like your take on wrestling with God. I don’t know much about wrestling, but as with any match against an opponent, you can either keep trying the same strategy and fail, or LEARN from your opponent, in order to improve your strategy. So many people (and in many ways Jacob, too) choose the former: they keep trying to get God to go with their plans, but get shut down over and over again. It’s only when we learn His Way, that we make progress.

  9. Phoenix, you’ll be in my prayers.

  10. Greg, thank you for your kind compliment! I’m a huge Randy Alcorn fan. I agree that it takes many of us a long time to learn that wrestling WITH God is better than wrestling AGAINST God. I look forward to hearing more from you and I’ll check out your blog today! God bless.

  11. Mid Stutsman says:

    Heh… and so I struggle on… 😉 Thanks for bringing me back to this!!