How God Used Jacob’s Wrestling to Heal Him
In my last blog, I shared my pastor’s sermon about how we can heal our anger with God. Today I will share how when we wrestle with God, He heals us.
Have you ever been told by a well-meaning Christian, “Everything happens for a reason?” Did you know this doesn’t appear anywhere in the bible? What God actually says is:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
In other words, God can bring good through the bad if we allow him to.
The way Romans 8:28 is used in church often makes us abuse victims and survivors angry. How can good come from our abuse? Why didn’t God answer our prayers (that the abuser would stop abusing)? We often don’t get the answers we want from God. When I was being abused, I asked, “Why do you allow this God? Don’t you hate divorce? Don’t you want husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church?”
In his sermon, my Pastor said, “I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’m going to wrestle with God and I’m going to cling to God and I’m confident that what’s more important to God is not that I get something, but that I become someone. That He starts to change me from the inside out.”*
In Genesis 32, we see Jacob at a crossroads in his life. He is returning to his native country, and is about to face Esau, the brother Jacob cheated out of his inheritance and his blessing. Jacob is terrified. He sends his wives, children, servants, and all his belongings across the Jordan River, and he stays behind so he can meet with God. When he was terrified of his future, Jacob didn’t lean on his own strength. When we face the valley of the shadow of death, we have two choices. We can:
- Run from our circumstances and from God or
- Cling to Him.
Jacob chose to cling to God. In Genesis 32:22 – 31, we see Jacob wrestling all night with God. Finally, at daybreak, God puts his hip out of joint in order to get Jacob to stop coming after Him. Even after this, Jacob still holds on until God agrees to bless him.
Why does Jacob insist on getting a blessing? Didn’t he already receive the blessing meant for Esau from his father Isaac?
Yes, but he got that blessing by lying and cheating. Jacob knew deep in his heart that blessing wasn’t meant for him. As a young man, when he went to Isaac dressed as Esau, Isaac asked him, “Are you really my son Esau?” Genesis 27:24. He answered, “I am,” a blatant lie.
Later, when he is wrestling with God, God asks, “What is your name?” This time, after many trials, hardships and years, Jacob has changed enough to honestly answer “Jacob.” God changes his name to Israel, implying Jacob will be the head of a great nation, the nation of Israel. When God puts Jacob’s hip out of joint, he leaves him with a reminder of their struggle, and changes Jacob’s lying scheming heart in to a heart God could use.
“Did you know that we’re invited to have the type of faith where we wrestle with God, where we strive with God? Why is that a great and beautiful thing? Because it means we’re clinging to him. It means we’re saying, ‘I will not let you go until I hear from you—who am I?’
As Jacob walks away, he walks away with a limp. It’s the “I have wrestled with God” limp . . . .’I’ve come with my questions, I’ve come with my doubts, I’ve come with my fears and I still have a lot of those, but I know who I am! I am loved by Him and I am chosen by Him and I am called by Him and He is the rock that I am building my life on!’
Struggling with God always leads to a transformation from God.
But that only happens with authenticity. It only happens through the wrestling and the struggling. We often look for answers, but God just wants our honesty. ‘I don’t get it, God, but I know you’re good and I trust you.’ When Jacob wrestles with God and comes out on the other side….if you were to look at him you’d say, ‘Oh, man! He got the worst end of that deal! The rest of his life he’s dragging a foot!’ But I think if you were to talk to Israel, what he would say is, “I know it looks like an injury, but I tell you it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that I’m no longer Jacob but I’m Israel. It’s a reminder that I can have a relationship with God that’s honest and I can wrestle with him. It’s a reminder that I’m no longer who I was, but I am who He says I am!’ I don’t know about you…I want that limp! I want the reminder, ‘God, this is who you say I am.’
It doesn’t mean that we always get all the answers. But it means that we have the most important answer. The answer to the most important question, ‘God, do you love me?’ And in the midst of all the chaos in the world, of all the pain and all the questions, His cross and His resurrection declare over you, ‘You are loved. You are chosen. You’re forgiven. You have a new name. You are redeemed.’ So, friends, because of the work of Jesus, we can wrestle honestly with God AND walk confidently in his world!”*
God says he chose us, just as a parent chooses an adopted child, (Ephesians 1:4 – 7). We are heirs together with Israel of the promise in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 3:6). So, let us wrestle with God, be honest about our pain and anger. Cling onto him until he blesses you. He is a loving father, and wants to bless you. When you ask, “God, do you love me?” God answers, “Yes, you are loved, and redeemed and chosen. I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5). And when we hear those words from God, we begin to heal. Yes, our lives may have crumbled, but now we know who we are . . . God’s beloved children.
Question: Can you describe a time when you wrestled with God? What was the outcome?
May God bless you as you cling to Him.
*Pastor Ryan Paulson, June 12, 2016 http://www.southfellowship.org/hulk-hogan-hebrew-heros-genesis-3222-32/