I was listening to a Christian radio program while driving home the other day, and I started thinking about how often I struggle with things I cannot control. How many times do I argue with God’s sovereign decisions and exert my pride in the form of suggesting a “better way” for Him to move in a particular situation? Am I alone here? Do you wrestle with God? Sometimes that can be a good thing!
Many of us know the story of Jacob in Genesis chapter 32. Jacob was returning to his homeland in Canaan with his two wives, Rachel and Leah. On the way, he sent messengers to his brother Esau to appease him. Remember, this is the brother he cheated out of his birthright. His servants told him that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men. Jacob was distressed and divided his people, flocks and herd into two companies. He begged God to intervene and protect him from harm. He reminded God of His promise to bless him and make his descendants innumerable.
During the night, he took his two wives, his servants, and his sons and crossed over the river Jabbok. Genesis 32:24 says, “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man [Jesus] wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” Jacob had struggled and held his ground – keeping the Angel at bay. His faith was not shaken, nor did he relent in the heat of the heavenly engagement. Hosea 12:4 declares, “Yes, he [Jacob] struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us- That is, the Lord God of hosts. The Lord is His memorial.” That very day Jacob saw God face to face. He wanted God’s blessing, but God let him “struggle” that he might truly see who he was in the sight of Almighty God.
This supernatural encounter also gave him confidence for the difficult days ahead. Jacob had to face the harsh reality regarding his estranged brother and the reception he would soon receive. God now presented him with a new name – Israel – which literally means “Prince with God”. Jacob named the place of his struggle Peniel, which means “I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.”
Sometimes God allows us to struggle with Him in prayer, and we are often crippled for our own good. Spiritually speaking, our view of ourselves and our problems need to be bent and dislocated in order for our struggling to cease. Our pride and bad judgment can cause us to live a life that distorts what God has planned for us. He desires for us to “walk a different way” after we have wrestled with Him and He has prevailed.
Submitting to God’s plans often involves grappling with our own ideas and remedies. This is evidenced in the lives of some of the Bible’s great heroes. Abraham’s faith was tested when he dialoged with God about the wickedness in Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18). Moses pleaded with God on behalf of Israel when they began worshiping a golden calf and foreign gods (Exodus 32).
We read about Elijah and his struggle with depression. After God miraculously displayed His power on Mount Carmel, Elijah withdrew into the desert to die. While hiding in a cave, and wailing “woe is me”, God revealed Himself to Elijah in a small, still voice (I Kings 19.) David was alone and often lived on the run during his darkest days. He lamented to God in many of the Psalms including 35, 55, 56, 57, and 59. David despaired of his life and longed for the peace of death. Praying to God for deliverance seemed to be a lesson in futility.
Prayer often represents the anguish of the soul in the presence of God. Wrestling with God in prayer exerts tremendous energy and positioning. Ultimately, as we bend our will to His, we allow Him to “pin us to the mat” of our struggles and claim victory in His Name. In Colossians 4:2 the Apostle Paul admonishes the church to “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving”, and in Colossians 4:12 he tells them that Epaphras, one of their fellow servants “always labors fervently for them in prayer”.
The bottom line is this: prayer and petitioning God is often engaging and deliberate. It’s emotionally draining and often exhausting. It’s exhilarating and soul-satisfying as we wrestle with a Holy God who sees our frailties and embraces our humble efforts to gain His Blessing.
What a mighty God we serve…
Deborah is the author of a Christian non-fiction book titled “Mission Possible”. It is written for women who love the Lord Jesus, but their spouse doesn’t share their passion. It will encourage and challenge the reader to embrace God’s promises for their spouse and future together.