Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wrestling with God

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Genesis 32:28

Change, transitions, and facing the unknown easily stir emotions in people. For me, transitioning back into my regular life, my new normal, after I step away for a while creates stress. It’s been especially hard this new year after time away with family over the holidays. I’m struggling- not so much with the loss of Peter… in that I have peace, though I miss him greatly. My struggle is in accepting the path that lay ahead.

So as the year ended and the new began, I found myself wrestling with God. You would think I’d be past this. I’ve walked through what felt like a living hell at times in my life and ALWAYS experienced an end result beyond my expectation, confirming the goodness and love and grace of God. So now as I struggle with returning to work, pressure filled days, and never having enough time to get everything done, you would think I’d keep perspective and say, “No sweat!” But I haven’t.

I grump. I doubt. I hesitate. And I wrestle. I challenge God with questions and opinions and in judge the path on which he leads me. Yes, I’m acting the part of the sulky, pouting child.

Thankfully, I’m enacting that role with my Heavenly Father. For his patience with me amazes me even as I dig in my heels. This week he has and is patiently countering each complaint, answering each doubt, steadily proving his trustworthiness. And I’m slowly becoming less grumpy, less doubtful, less wary. I still don’t like the unknown. But I’m not running away. I’m trying to figure things out.

And that’s what makes it OK.

Jacob did that. As he returned to the land of his fathers, the land his father’s God promised in blessing, he too wrestled with God. He fought to figure who exactly this God was. The story takes place in Genesis 32. He wrestles all night, gets permanently injured in the process, and demands a blessing as dawn breaks. The man answers his request in today’s key verse.

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Genesis 32:28

Jacob, now Israel, then returns to his homeland, makes peace with his brother, and settles his family. After all of this, Genesis 33:20 says, “And there he built an alter and named it El-Elohe-Israel.” The name of the alter means God, the God of Israel. He has accepted the blessing and God is no longer the God of his father, but now his OWN God.

This story greatly encourages me during my moments of wrestling. I see a willingness of God to meet someone right where they are. I see Jacob forever changed in the process. He has a new name reflecting this change. He is blessed through his wrestling. He gains a better understanding of God and a deeper relationship with God.

I share this not to justify or authenticate my doubts, but to maybe encourage you if and when you find yourself in a similar place. I’ve known many who instantly condemn questioning and struggle as one walks out their faith. But this story validates the wrestling, and almost requires it as a healthy part of the process. Wrestling differs from running away. It is not solo, you have to be engaged to wrestle. It’s active not passive. It ends with a declared winner.

So when you find yourself in a wrestling match with God, don’t let yourself be condemned. Give it all you have. Ask questions. Search for truth. Be real. You will come out different on the other side, with a better understanding of both God and yourself.

Next week I’ll share some of the understandings I gained this week through my wrestling. Until then, don’t quit. The fight is worth it.

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