Post #2 – You ‘Gotta’ Stay in the Game
Can a ‘wrestling’ story that occurred several thousand years ago be relevant to us who live in the 21st Century?
I’d answer in the affirmative since without a doubt, my favorite ‘wrestling’ story is one found in the first book of the Bible. It involves a man named Jacob. (Discover or review Jacob’s story in Genesis.)
Even though Jacob traveled by camel—while we zip around the world on jet airplanes—I believe this story remains applicable.
Jacob experienced much drama and dysfunction in his lifetime, and he reacted with many poor choices.
Poor choices often leave us feeling much like Jacob—exhausted, frightened, alone, helpless—even hopeless. I like the way The Message describes his end-of-the-rope experience:
24-25 Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
27 The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”
31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping…
While chatting about Jacob’s story and the topic of wrestling with a friend whose husband once coached high school wrestling, she commented, “You know, you can’t wrestle without staying in the game!”
Jacob stayed in the game! He never stopped believing. Despite messing up, Jacob understood at some visceral level God cared enough to bless him.
You and I cannot wrestle with God if we don’t believe God. We won’t persevere if we cannot accept that God forgives and is for us, not against us.
A friend of mine attended every one of her big, strong son’s high school wrestling matches. He seemed to love the contact sport, never complained afterward, and my friend said she was surprised one day when she asked him if wrestling hurt. “Yeah, Mom, it hurts. It hurts a LOT!”
Refusing to give up during a wrestling match—whether at the high-school or spiritual level—isn’t without risk and will probably hurt—sometimes a LOT!
Jacob emerged from his place of wrestling with an actual physical limp. Our wrestling with God may leave us with broken pride or bruised self-sufficiency.
The vital example, however, about Jacob’s dogged determination to not let go is he left the place of wrestling with a new name, a name his ancestors carry on today. He also limped away having experienced God’s personal presence and blessing.
We too will emerge from an experience of painful, spiritual wrestling, with a new identity. We may ‘limp’ away but with head held high, secure in God’s sufficiency, knowing despite the pain, we refused to throw in the towel and leave the game. We’ll feel blessed because we’ve experienced first-hand that God knows our name and cares about our struggles despite our deficiencies.
Lord, you know I’ve been ‘wrestling’ for over a week with the words in this post. Please use them to encourage any reader who might benefit. Give power to persevere. While my friend grapples, grant glimpses of your grace. Please protect his or her heart during this difficult season of ‘wrestling.’