I wrestle. A lot.
Not down on the floor in the physically crazy, wild, exhausting and tension filled kind of way. Like my boys might do.
But often in a similarly crazy, wild, exhausting, tension filled, emotional and mental kind of way. Like a woman hard after the heart of God would do.
It’s a strange kind of wrestling, but a lot of us do it. This wrestling with the things of God, in our hearts and minds in the depths of our souls.
I think of Jacob. A man called by God for great purpose. A man who didn’t start off his life in ways that seemed to be fulfilling that purpose. A man who started his life as a deceiver and continued this trajectory with manipulation and self-preservation.
Those first many decades for Jacob- they included a lot of heart ache, persecution, manipulation, and striving. These years included loneliness, fighting for survival and fighting to become something when he had nothing. He was fighting to rise above the opposition he faced. When he was taken advantage of, he kept marching forward.
Jacob was a man who had his eye on what he wanted, and he went after it.
Eventually, Jacob obtains the appearance of success as he swindles his uncle for sheep and flees with a great horde of material blessings, wives, servants and children. It appears he has it all. He has fought for it, and now he has it.
But, getting what he wanted does not come without a cost. He realizes he cannot keep the things he has obtained, and stay where he is. There is danger if he stays, and quite frankly, danger if he leaves.The Lord tells him He will be with him, so he goes, with everything and everyone.
Jacob has fled before. After he deceived his brother and received the blessings meant for Esau, he fled in fear of his life.
Now Jacob has deceived again. After all, his name means deceiver so should it be surprising? Now, he flees again.
Jacob – the deceiver – is now between two men who have lost greatly to him. He has left his uncle Laban, and he is headed towards his brother Esau. He is at a crossroads in his life. There are decisions to be made. He can’t go back and he’s afraid to move forward.
It’s time to seek the Lord in prayer, remember the words of promise and blessing that God has already told him. It is time to face his fears.
When Jacob fled from Esau (many years prior), the Lord met him on the way and gave him a beautiful vision and great promises. (Genesis 27:10-22).
Along the way toward Esau, Jacob is afraid,again, so he prays. – Genesis 32:9-12
And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac,
O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred,
that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds
of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant,
for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.
Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau,
for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.
But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea,
which cannot be numbered for multitude.”
He recognizes God’s goodness to him.
He recognizes God’s faithfulness and steadfastness.
He asks for deliverance from the evil he fears. He is honest with his fears.
He then reminds himself what God has already told him, “I will surely do you good…”
Do you know what God does? On the journey towards Esau the Lord shows up, as a man, in person. Not just a vision this time. This time he doesn’t just tell him the Lord is with him and will not leave him. He doesn’t even “just” show him in a dream. As if that isn’t amazing enough already.
God shows up in human form.
Jacob has sent everyone away and he is alone. And somehow, in some unknown way, a man shows up “and wrestled with him until the breaking of day.”
Jacob wrestled with God.
Though he was in the midst of fleeing another man, he met the man of God, Jesus Christ in the flesh and did not flee.
In fact – not only did he not flee in fear, he met Jesus face to face and fought him all night long.
Can you imagine having heard that God has not left you or forsaken you, being given visions and now…being met with God face to face?
Would you run? Have you run?
Would you face your Lord?
He faced what he really needed to face, God. He faced it head on. After an all night, all out physically exerting and exhausting wrestling, the man (Jesus) tells him to let go and Jacob says, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Wrestling with God – not giving up. Facing fears. Seeking God’s blessings.
This is not a man saying – bless me by giving me whatever I want. This is not a man who said I deserve much more than I have. Remember, he had just prayed to the Lord and said, “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness you have shown to your servant…”
This is a man who had seen the works of God in his life, had known the blessings and promises spoken to him by God and was still operating out of fear and self-preservation. Until now.
Jacob meets God face to face and doesn’t let go.
Would you face the circumstances of your life, the fears and anxieties you have and wrestle with God for his blessings? Even if the struggle was so exhausting and the end seemed so far off? Have you wrestled with God in this way? I have. I am now.
This arduous, lengthy struggle was a pivotal turning point for the trajectory of his life.
God did in fact bless him. Before he gives the blessing, he renames him.
Jacob, is no longer the deceiver.
He is now Israel, one who wrestles with God and man until he prevails.
Jacob had a calling on his life, by God, for God. However, many decades would pass before the call to God honoring and God glorifying purposes would begin to be seen in the trajectory of a different plan, in God’s ultimate plan.
You and I, we have a calling too. By God, for God. Whatever direction your life is headed in, will you meet God face to face and make sure it is headed on the path towards His glory?
Will you remember what God has already told you? Will you call out for help to face your fears so that your life can move in the way that is led by Christ?
The trajectory of Jacob’s life and all of history changes here when he is renamed and blessed. He was already blessed by God, but I just wonder if Jacob realized that he had reached a point in his life where the depth of his need for God in every aspect was felt more deeply? Is this why he refused to let go?
We often think of wrestling in light of the following definition:
: to combat an opposing tendency or force
Often we do in fact wrestle in a more combative sense, as if God is the enemy, but He is not. The type of wrestling I think of, the kind of wrestling I do much of, is more in line with this definition.
: to engage in deep thought, consideration, or debate
Wrestling can also mean to struggle, grapple with. I seek wrestling in the form of a struggling to understand more of who God is, how He works and what He desires of me and for me in each and every season that I am in. What was his will in the last season looks different for the next.
Wrestling means grappling with the things of God & working out our purposes in light of Him.
I don’t want to let go. My heart is restless to wrestle with the things of God and in the process of doing so, I am bending my restless heart to His ways, His touch and His guidance.
As I purpose to meet Jesus face-to-face, through scripture and prayer, I reap the benefits of the blessings he offers in so many ways.
Will you join me? Will you meet God face to face? Are you wondering how?
CULTIVATE: Read His word to hear what He has to say. Pray to Him to talk to Him. Ask God your questions. Let Him know how you feel and the struggles you have, even though He already knows. Then listen. Through the reading of His word and honest, prayerful communication (talking and listening), you will be more likely to discern the things of God and see the blessings He has for you.
Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
– James 4:7-8
Choose to draw near to Him. Meet God. Submit yourself to Him. Resist the enemy and draw near to the Creator. Seek the blessings he has for each of us in the paths we are each to take.