What does it mean to Wrestle with God?
Well, the word wrestle comes from the Hebrew word pathal which means “to struggle” or “be morally torturous”. So, to wrestle with God really means to struggle with Him, but why do we wrestle with God? For me, I feel that we aren’t really wrestling with God but wrestling with ourselves and the decisions we made in our past that come back and tell us that what God has planned for our lives is not possible.
We see in the Book of Genesis that Jacob struggles with all of the decisions he made when he was younger and finally accepts what he did and in the end, God blesses and rewards Jacob with a new name that will define the nation forever: Israel.
“25. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip, and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks’ But he said, “I will not let go until you bless me!”
We see in the verse above that this Man (who some believe to be Jesus) pulled Jacob’s hip from his socket and told Jacob to let him go, but Jacob refused and held on because he wanted to be blessed; not because he refused to let go but because he finally acknowledged for himself who he was and the decisions he had made in his life. In the story of Jacob, we see right from the beginning that Jacob grasped at the heel of his brother Esau (see Genesis 25:26) which would later define his future struggles.
This can be applied to today, I recently read a devotional by Dena Johnson entitled, “Wrestling with God Will Change You Forever” where she talks about this subject. In the devotional she said, “… until Jacob had a divine wrestling match with God—until he had a very personal struggle with God—his faith was not cemented” and I think that should apply to us as Christians and people today.
As Christians, we oftentimes wrestle with personal issues that have affected us in our lives and when we fail to resolve those issues, it can have a negative impact on the blessings God has in store for us.
Toby Mac said, “Running away from your problems is a race you will never win.”
I recently read a devotional by Lizzie Milani called, “Stained With Light – The Quotes Series – Part 2” where she talks about the story of Jacob. In the devotional, she said something that I think speaks not only about Jacob but about us as well when we struggle with our past saying, “… who cheated his brother out of a birthright, who had to flee from his family, who had to work seven years for the woman he loved only to be tricked into marrying someone else and had to work an additional seven years to get his love”.
What I liked about this statement was that with each time Jacob messed up; he ran and this should show us as Christians and as people that when we mess up, we tend to run from the problem.
Also, in the devotional, Lizzie Milani has several statements that I think we as Christians and people should see within ourselves when describing the story of Jacob and what we go through because just like Jacob, we have to come to the conclusion that we have to stop running from our past and face it.
- “He wanted a new blessing. A reset. Something that was his.”
- “when asked his name, he didn’t pretend to be someone else, he spoke the truth: Jacob.”
- “He had finally come to accept himself and what he had done. He wrestled it all to the ground and was ready to stand on his own two feet.”
- “… if you’re NOT struggling and wrestling with faith, then you’ve already failed.”
- “… we SHOULD have questions and things to wrestle out with the Divine.”
- “… find him more in the wrestle, in the struggle.… that turn out to be blessings when I live all the way through them”
- “Wrestling with God often means losing something that we were wishing for, to gain what we were born for.”
Author and Pastor A.W. Tozer said, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him”
This also leads me to a song that I heard by Kirk Franklin called, “I Am God” where the basis of the song is really from the perspective of us, as humans and how we often struggle with the desire to give into our flesh against the desire to do right with God. In Galatians 5:17, it says, “17. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
So you keep breaking me (There you go!)
It’s like I’m fighting for my life (woo!)
You hit me with another light
I feel like Jacob in the night
Won’t stop ’till you bless me
My flesh and my will (Yes father!)
Is yours not to kill (To kill!)
Bringing myself to you (Come on!)
But living sacrifice is more (Can I get up now)
I love this song because, in the song, it shows us how much we as Christians and people have the internal and constant battle with the flesh and what we are called to do as Christians; which I feel references Matthew 26:41 which says, “41. Watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
This is verse shows that while our Spirit is willing to obey God, our flesh continues to wrestle with us because we live in a fallen world. I also read another devotional by Lizzie Milani entitled, “With God – Jacob Series – Part 6” where she continues to talk about the story of Jacob.
In the devotional, she said, “… if you’re not struggling and wrestling with something on any scale, be it large or small, then you’re not really living. You’re not asking questions. You’re going where the flow takes you, swallowing everything fed to you, accepting the status quo, not adventuring into the unknown, stepping out in faith (you get the idea).”
A.W. Tozer said, “No man is ever the same after God has laid His hand upon you.”
I like this statement because to me, I think that whatever we are struggling with or wrestling with it keeps us bound and that just means that we haven’t faced the problem and it will continue to keep us bound until we step into faith and let God release us from bondage.
Also, in the devotional, Lizzie Milani has some quotes that I feel we as Christians, non-believers, and people should take to heart as a reminder that whatever we have bound to us can be used to better us.
- “… by engaging with God, and wrestling out the stuff in your life – asking the questions, voicing your heartaches, declaring your angst – there’s blessing to be found.”
- “You can’t wrestle with God and fail.”
- “Sacred messages can come to us in ways that are both scary and heavenly, scarring and healing: like wrestling with God and man and coming out blessed and injured as Jacob did that night in the dessert.”
- “All God wants is our awareness and willingness to wake up to him and walk with him through whatever comes our way as best we can.”
- “… wrestling with God doesn’t have to mean that you’re in opposition to him. It’s part of the learning process. It’s part of living. It’s part of seeking him out through it all.”
- “Face-to-face with God: in doubts, in questions, hopes, dreams, failures, successes, mistakes, heartaches, neglects, abuses, sins, lies, loves… all of it. Wrestle it out. There is much beauty and truth to be found.”
Now, the thought of wrestling with God was always a confusing topic because I took it as literally wrestling with God and thinking to myself “Jacob can’t win. It’s impossible!” but it wasn’t until I really read the story of Jacob again that I saw that this Man never intended to beat Jacob, but to bless him because Jacob spoke as himself and not as someone else.
This theme of the internal struggle between the flesh and God reminded me of a sermon I watched on YouTube by Steven Furtick called, “Just Call Me Jacob” where he goes in-depth about the story of Jacob and how it applies to us today.
In the YouTube video, Steven Furtick said, “… and this is where God will do some of His best work in your life. When you are left alone” and I think that really should show us as Christians the kind of God we serve. In the sermon, Steven Furtick makes several quotes to the story of Jacob that I feel we all should use in our daily lives.
- “The conflict between who we really are and how we would like to appear.”
- “When there’s a conflict within you and you can’t understand it and you wonder ‘Why is this battle happening?’ Instead of taking it to all of your friends… sometimes you’ve got to take it to the Lord in prayer”
- “It’s this me-first mentality”
- “How can you being to have a God-first focus in a me-first world?”
- “It’s not always the ones who get ahead or are ahead…”
- “In order to find yourself, you must lose yourself so God can show you a self that’s not about stuff.”
- “It’s possible to get what you want and then not want what you got.”
- God cannot bless who you pretend to be.”
- “There is the me I can see, and the me you wish you could be.”
- “It takes you getting all the stuff you thought you wanted to realize that it’s not really what you need.”
- “You’ve found yourself when you hold on to God even when it would be easier to let go.”
- “When you hold onto God even when you can’t clearly see…”
- “It’s this me-first mentality”
Jon Acuff said, “Wrestling with God is a sign of intimacy. You can’t wrestle with someone you’re far away from.”
In the end though, when you wrestle with God; you have to be willing to endure some pain because it is only then that He can bless you. As we see through the story of Jacob that even when he tricked Esau out of his birthright and his blessing, that he ran away from his problems while being someone else. If we are to be blessed by God, we have to be ourselves and not wear a mask that covers the true, God-created person underneath.
So, what will you do?
Will you wrestle with God as the person He created you to be?
Will you go before God as your true God-created self?
Or, will you run away from the situations that come in your life, like Jacob?
Tell me what you think. Comment below and tell me what you think.
Franklin, Kirk. “I Am God by Kirk Franklin ft. tobyMac” YouTube, uploaded by nanissa14, 7 years ago, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdDoYAygC1Y . Accessed 6 Nov 2017.
Furtick Steven. “Just Call Me Jacob” YouTube, uploaded by Sermons, love, 5 months ago, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di5TEQwTWng . Accessed 7 Nov 2017.
Johnson, Dena. “Wrestling with God Will Change You Forever”, https://www.ibelieve.com/slideshows/wrestling-with-god-will-change-you-forever.html . Accessed 09 Nov 2017.
- “With God – Jacob Series – Part 6”, pktfuel.com, https://www.pktfuel.com/with-god/ . Accessed 08 Nov 2017.
Acuff, Jon. “Wrestling with God is a sign of intimacy. You can’t wrestle with someone you’re far away from.” https://i.pinimg.com/736x/cb/b6/2c/cbb62c35b45738be1c8235302b1072d9–perfect-guy-wrestling.jpg. Accessed 10 Nov 2017.
Author Unknown. “Wrestling with God.” – Faith in Real Life” 22 Apr 2014, http://www.simplyjesusministries.com/faith-in-real-life/wrestling-with-god-faith-in-real-life . Accessed 09 Nov 2017.
Author Unknown. “Verse of the Day: Genesis 32:28”, https://biblia.com/bible/nasb95/Gen%2032.27-28 . Accessed 10 Nov 2017.
Author Unknown. “Be Still and Know that I Am God”, https://www.meierclinics.com/Be-Still-and-Know-that-I-Am-God . Accessed 10 Nov 2017.
Author Unknown. “Refusing Responsibility”, https://newlife.com/refusing-responsibility/ . Accessed 10 Nov 2017.
Chapman, Darren. “Wrestling with God”, https://www.creationswap.com/media/12018 . Accessed 06 Nov 2017.
Fisher, Suzanne. “Jacob’s Wrestling Match | Genesis 32:26”, 21 Oct 2015, http://suzannewoodsfisher.com/faith/jacobs-wrestling-match-genesis-3226/ . Accessed 10 Nov 2017.
Mac, Toby. “Running away from your problems is a race you will never win.” https://i.pinimg.com/736x/21/81/fd/2181fd6b14c60a65453f40879a3b27e4–song-quotes-quotable-quotes.jpg. Accessed 10 Nov 2017.