I’ve always been drawn to the scene where Jacob wrestles with an angel of God and wins. It will be worth your while to revisit this passage found in Genesis 32: 22-32. I suppose it’s like any other match. People are naturally drawn to a fight. I remember in high school someone would call out, “fight” and everyone would drop what they were doing to become sideline observers of the event.
Likewise, I’m drawn in to the story of Jacob wrestling with God even though I know who wins because there is something familiar about the scene. I, too, wrestle with God.
There are times in my life where I walk with God, where I sit, listen, seek and obey. Those times are rare compared to the times that I wrestle with God. Jacob is no different. He’s afraid. Instead of faithfully sitting before God pouring out his concerns and listening for direction, he wrestles with Him.
Jacob makes visible what is often hidden. Our struggle with God—whom we don’t know, can’t understand, or control. Jacob makes visible what’s invisible to others—our spiritual struggle.
Sr. Joan Chittister says, “God is not a puppeteer and God is not a magic act. God is the ground of our being, the energy of life, the goodness out of which all things are intended to grow to fullness. Yet it is a struggle…How can we possibly deal with the great erupting changes of life and come away more whole because of having been through them than we would possibly have been without them? To do that takes a spirituality of struggle.”
Jacob’s wrestling match comes at an important time in his life. He is leaving land of Laban and on his way home to Canaan. In doing so, he will cross paths with his brother Esau. This event is sort of a picture of Jacob’s entire life. If you recall, Jacob wrestled with his twin brother, Esau, in their mother’s womb. He wrestled his brother over his birthright, and now that Laban is behind him and Esau is just ahead of him, Jacob gets jumped by God.
We can relate this to any kind of wrestling match we may be involved in, in our psyche, in our family or friend relationships, in our struggle to promote justice and peace, in our quest for physical and spiritual healing. All of these encounters are really encounters with God.
Jacob wins not because he pins his opponent, but because he simply won’t let go. He holds on for dear life and refuses to loosen his grip until he gets a blessing. His victory comes at a cost. He gets bruised up. From now on, he will limp through life, bearing the scars of his encounter. He’ll never quite be the same, visibly so.
Jacob was also blessed. He got a new name, Israel. Healing came as well. The match between Jacob and God was to bring Jacob to the end of himself.
Maybe wrestling with God isn’t such a bad thing. Such, there may be some bruising but we also encounter blessings. Maybe we participate in our own healing in an active way when we get assertive about the blessings we want instead of just passively accepting whatever comes our way. I’d love to glean from your insights. You may add them by clicking on the comment link below. I’d also like to challenge you to this: What are some ways you wrestle with God for control.