Do you ever feel like your life is just one constant struggle? Every day, you wrestle with money problems, family crises, job issues, health concerns, and on and on. Have you ever considered that maybe the reason your life is one big struggle is because you are in a wrestling match with God, and you don’t even realize it? This is exactly what happened with Jacob in the Bible.
In Genesis 32:24-30, Jacob wrestled with a Man all night long without realizing it was actually God with whom he was really fighting. After the wrestling match ended, Jacob asked his opponent, “What is your name?” The Man replied, “Why is it that you ask My name?” In other words, the question Jacob asked his opponent was a rhetorical one, meaning, “Do you really need to ask My name? Don’t you know? Can’t you see Who it is that fights with you?” After this, Jacob’s eyes were opened, and he realized that it was God all along with whom he had been wrestling. We know this because in verse 30, Jacob says “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
Perhaps you are like Jacob and have been wrestling a long time with God without realizing it. If so, this biblical wrestling match offers you the following eye-opening lessons.
A born wrestler
Jacob had been wrestling his whole life. He started wrestling in his mother’s womb with his twin brother, Esau. (Genesis 25:22) In later years, Jacob and his brother wrestled over the privileges of birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34)) Jacob wrestled with his father, Isaac, when he dressed up as his brother to deceive his father so that his father would grant him the rights of a firstborn’s inheritance. (Genesis, chapter 27) When Esau found out how his brother, Jacob, had deceived their father, thus stealing the inheritance, Esau wanted to kill Jacob. (Genesis 27:41) So, Jacob ran away to go live with his Uncle Laban for several years where he continued to wrestle. He wrestled with Uncle Laban over wages, and he wrestled with the problems of having two wives and two concubines. (Genesis, chapters 28-31) Up until this point, Jacob had been wrestling his whole life. Maybe you can relate to that. Maybe you feel like you have been wrestling your whole life just to survive.
How is God revealing Himself to you?
Then, one day after all these years of wrestling, God comes to Jacob in the form of… a wrestler. (Genesis 32:24) You see, sometimes, in order to get our attention, God shows Himself to us in whatever manner we are familiar or accustomed. Abraham was a pilgrim, a stranger in a foreign land, so God came to him in the form of strangers. (Genesis 18) Joshua was a soldier, and God came to him in the form of a soldier. (Joshua 5:13-15) Jacob was a wrestler, so God came to him as a wrestler. God often gets our attention by demonstrating to us who and what we actually are.
Do you constantly struggle with your children not listening to you or rebelling against you? Maybe God is trying to show you that you are doing the same with Him. Do you struggle with people not appreciating you and taking you for granted? Maybe you are doing the same with God.
Read what Psalm 18:25-26 says: “With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with the blameless man You will show Yourself blameless, with the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.”
See, God often demonstrates Himself to us in whatever way we demonstrate ourselves. We all need to examine ourselves from time to time to see if and how we are wrestling with God. (II Corinthians 13:5)
So, what are some of the ways that we can wrestle with God?
1. Wrestling by deception
Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, by dressing up as his brother, Esau, to steal the inheritance from his brother. Sometimes, we may get it in our heads that God doesn’t see or care what we are doing. It’s okay if I tell this white lie. It’s okay if I steal a little bit from the company. It’s okay if I go against the rules this time because it is for a good cause. We may try to deceive God, but God can not be deceived. God sees everything and knows everything, so it is really only ourselves that we are deceiving.
“For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:3 and 7)
2. Wrestling against God’s Word
We often complain about life being so hard, but God has supplied us with the instructions that make for a more peaceful and happy life. These instructions are contained within His Word, the Bible.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)
If we find our life to be frustrating, maybe we need to get out the instructions and see if we are handling life the right way or not.
3. Wrestling against God’s Will
Before Jacob was ever born, God revealed to his mother, Rebekah, His will for her children. He said that the older child (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). Before Jacob was ever born, God had willed for Jacob to receive the promises that He made to his grandfather, Abraham. But, even so, Jacob still wrestled with God’s will. He still tried to go about obtaining the inheritance his own way by lying and deceiving.
God’s will for us is to trust and obey Him. He promises to supply us with everything we need (Matthew 6:33), and when we trust Him and do things His way, He always keeps His promise. However, when we decide that God needs a little help, and we try to do things our own way, we wrestle with God’s will, and we often make a mess of our lives. If we can learn to be patient and trust in God’s will for us, we will find our lives to much more easier and peaceful.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28- 30)
4. Wrestling against God’s blessings
Can we really wrestle against God’s blessings? Yes, we can. Jacob was not content to wait on God to deliver the blessings He had promised in His own time. Jacob wanted to take his inheritance when he wanted it. Aren’t we often like this? We want things on our time, and when we don’t get them like we want, we often try to do things our way. Psalm 31:19 says that God has laid up many blessings for those who trust in Him, but guess what happens when insist on getting those blessings on our time instead of His time? We interfere with God’s perfect timing and sometimes cheat ourselves out of those blessings.
Look how God’s nation, Israel, missed out on some of the wonderful blessings that God longed to give them:
“Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries……He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; and with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.” (Psalm 81:13-16)
5. Wrestling against God’s chastening
“For whom the Lord loves He chastens.” (Hebrews 12:6)
As a result of Jacob’s deceptive plan to steal his brother’s inheritance (which God had already willed to give him), Jacob had to run away from home out of fear of being killed by his brother. When he lived with his Uncle Laban, he was forced to work for more than 14 years for Laban, doing things Laban’s way just so he could be allowed to marry Rachel. Jacob had to suffer the consequences of his wrongdoing. During all those long years of working for Uncle Laban, Jacob learned what God had wanted him to learn in the first place, that is patience and honesty. During his time with Laban, Jacob grew up and learned both how to be patient and honest.
God often allows us to suffer the consequences of going about things our way instead of His way so that we will learn to be a wiser, stronger, and better person. But, what happens if you don’t allow yourself to learn and do better? You wrestle with God’s chastening, and as long as you do that, you will continue to struggle in your life.
6. Wrestling against God’s love and forgiveness
Has this ever happened to you? A loved one offends or hurts you, and when you decide to forgive them, they won’t accept your forgiveness? They may say they don’t deserve your forgiveness or your love. Sometimes, we do this with God. We know we have let Him down, but we don’t ask or accept His love and forgiveness because we feel we don’t deserve it. When we do this, we wrestle with God because God loves us and longs to forgive us.
Listen to what God says about His nation of Israel after they treated Him unfaithfully by worshiping false idols: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4)
But, what happens when we refuse to allow God to love and forgive us? We shut Him out of our lives and hinder Him from blessing us.
See how Jesus grieves over Jerusalem’s refusal to accept His love: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)
7. A time to surrender
For every wrestling match, there must eventually come a time for someone to surrender. God had allowed Jacob to prosper over the years. He now had many rich possessions and a large family. Perhaps he thought highly of himself, but God loves for His children to have a humble spirit. (James 4:6)
When Jacob wrestled with God all night, God allowed Jacob to have the upper hand until He was ready to put Jacob in his place. Then, God pulled Jacob’s thigh bone out of joint. This suddenly brought Jacob to his knees, to a point of surrender. Sometimes, God has to bring us to our knees put us in a proper perspective.
We sometimes think that surrender means weakness, but to surrender to God means victory. Look what happened to Jacob when he finally surrendered to God:
He got a new name. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. He got a new walk. Now Jacob had to forever go around limping. Now, he is made humble. After this, Jacob went on to make amends with his brother Esau and to live out a prosperous and good life with his children. You see, when we surrender to God, we too become changed. Our attitude changes, and we are made more humble. When we are humble, God can mold us into something great, but He can not do this until we surrender to Him. It is only when we finally learn to surrender to God that we finally experience victory over our struggles.
If your life is a constant struggle, then I encourage you to surrender all of your life to God, and allow God to give you victory.