Life: Struggle Required

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 32

Two U.S. Air Force members wrestling in a Grec...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.” Genesis 32:28 (MSG)

When you grow up in Iowa, wrestling has a significance you don’t find in most other places. The sport of wrestling is huge in Iowa. The annual wrestling match between Iowa and Iowa State “grapplers” will pack in record crowds. When I was in junior high, there was a mandatory P.E. class on wrestling that every guy had to take. Wrestlers like Dan Gable are elevated to near deity status in this state. It’s part of the charm of growing up and living in Iowa. It’s a quirky place.

I mention this because, as I read this morning’s chapter, I realized that I might have a layer of understanding that comes from growing up in Iowa. I was never a great wrestler and never had any interest in the sport, but growing up here required that I at least learn how to grapple in that wrestling ring and experience it on numerous occasions. There is  something to be said for facing your fear, staring at an opponent face-to-face, and going at it. You quickly realize that the struggle is both with your opponent and with yourself.

There is a spiritual lesson here because I’ve come to understand that being a follower of Jesus is not something you can do on the sidelines. You cannot sit along the side of the road and watch others’ journeys and expect it to make a difference in your own life. The lesson of Jacob/Israel is that at some point you have to look God face to face and be willing to struggle. You have to hear Jesus’ call to follow and take that step of faith to leave an old way of life to begin a new. Talk about wrestling with a decision.

I’ve come to believe that until we are willing to wrestle with God we are all Jacobs; We are all just deceivers deceiving ourselves. To truly learn how to come through this journey in spiritual wholeness, full of life and in relationship with God, we have to be willing to step in the ring and grapple with both God and with ourselves.

One thought on “Life: Struggle Required”

  1. 9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! 11 O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. 12 But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.’”

    Desperate. This whole prayer has a tone of fear, including reminding God of how He promised to take care of Jacob, as if God forgot. It sounded so desperate to me this morning that I couldn’t help smile….until I realized that it sounds like my prayers sometimes. I try hard to pray consistently, good times or bad, but I can remember crying out to God with very similar urgency to what Jacob did in this story. God help me to trust you in all things.

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