You can wrestle with God – But you won’t win!
Do you ever get that light bulb moment when something you misunderstood finally makes sense? Like realizing the offside rule doesn’t mean the ball has gone off the side of the pitch? (I’ve a limited knowledge of football – I can’t be the only one!) Or discovering a new function on your phone that makes life a million times easier?
I had one of those moments today – an ‘ohhhhh! that’s what that meant!’ moment. This moment of illumination stemmed from a chilled out church service and a guy in the Bible called Jacob.
There’s this story in the Bible about a guy called Jacob. He doesn’t start out very well at all, he’s a go getter and doesn’t mind bending a few rules to get what he wants. By his mid 40’s he’d been forced to flee the family home after he’d cheated his older twin brother out of his inheritance and deceived his dying father so that he would get a better blessing than his brother.
Skip forward a few years and he’s been having some trouble with the in-laws, in his 60’s he moves on again with his wives and children and comes full circle, he decides to make peace with his brother. Jacob remembers Esau as the guy who threatened to kill him, hot tempered, short fused. So he’s a little more than anxious. He sends messengers ahead of him with gifts to try gauge the reaction of his bro. (You can catch the whole story in Genesis 25 onwards) In the waiting there’s a really epic bit of the story. He’s travelling with his family when a guy appears and wrestles with him all night until day break.When the guy asks Jacob to stop wrestling with him Jacob refuses until the guy hits the socket of his hip and knocks it out of place – Jacob is forced to concede, he can’t go on with the pain. It’s only then that he realizes who he is wrestling with – God.
Flip! This guy wrestled with God and survived… What’s more, God allows it to carry on all night before he gets Jacob to submit. I’ve always imagined God and Jacob to have had this epic arm wrestle, but that’s not what the bible says. They are full on wrestling – thing WWW with less lycra. Wouldn’t it have just been so much easier to sit and have a cuppa and listen to the plan ahead? Probably. But God knew that Jacob would never change unless he learnt that the plan for the rest of his life couldn’t be carried out unless he was prepared to work for and with God and not tried to win things without him.
We are so like that sometimes with God today aren’t we? Trust me we are, whether we understand it at the time or not. My aha! moment was realizing that sometimes that feeling I get in my gut, the frustration I have with God when I can’t see the direction he wants me to go in is me, wrestling with Him… and he allows it.
This journey called life is a continual process, a process of being refined and shaped and molded, a training ground for the eternal life beyond this one. I am in awe continually of a God who allows my thinking I know best, who honors the times I try to serve him and fail, who covers my failures with the perfection of Jesus – so I get all of the blessing and none of the punishment. A love like that I’ll never fully understand.
So today I learnt this – I do wrestle when i’m waiting for God to tell me the next bit of the plan, I wriggle and squirm and plead and ask for the next piece of the puzzle. I don’t know what makes me think I know His timing better than he does! If I’d known as a teenager what he had planned for me over the past ten years I would have freaked out, passed out, cried, puked and probably pulled a Jonah. But – in His epic wisdom, he gives me a small piece of the puzzle at a time. He allows me to wrestle, but I’m learning that with God – it’s better to submit, and let Him direct the journey.