I was asked to write something for another blog... and it turned out being quite a revelation for me as well.
“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him. Then He said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” …And there He blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Peniel, limping because of his hip.” (Genesis 32:24-26, 29-31)
When you read this story, what comes to mind? Do you see it as just another Bible story? Perhaps you see it as strange, or even foolish. (After all, why would Jacob try to wrestle God—the man in this story)? Or maybe you’ve just never thought about it much. Well, I have probably thought one or more of those things at some point, but now this is actually one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I think if we could do what Jacob did, our lives would change. But before I get into that, a little history…
If you read the verses leading up to this section, you’ll find that Jacob was praying. Hard. He was getting ready to face his brother, who was bent on killing Jacob the last time they were together. Now that Jacob is returning with his entire family, he fully expects them all to be wiped out. Talk about problems! I’m sure you have all felt some of the pain Jacob did. You likely have not had the lives of your family threatened. But we all hurt. We all face life. And let’s admit it—life can be hard sometimes. In fact, life can be horrible. There are times when it’s hard to just keep moving and breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. But it is in those times that the miraculous happens.
God shows up.
It’s true. It may be hard to see, but He shows up in our lives today and He showed up in Jacob’s. But did you notice when He came?
“And Jacob was left alone.” It wasn’t when things were going great back at Laban’s house. It wasn’t when his mind was preoccupied with a journey. It wasn’t when he could push his problems to the back of his mind by playing with his kids or something. No. Jacob was at the end of his rope—and alone. There was no more hiding. No more pretending. No more ignoring the truth or hoping for another way out. He was alone, his brother was coming to kill him and his family, and God had been silent to his pleas.
Then God came. That is the beautiful part about God. When you reach the absolute lowest point you can go—God is there. When you can’t imagine another moment of pain or disappointment—God steps in. And when there are no other options available—God supplies your every need.
But there’s another part to this story. You’ll notice that things didn’t immediately turn around for Jacob once God got there. Instead, he spent the night wrestling with God. And this is the lesson that is so valuable. There are times when life becomes so draining or overwhelming that you need God to step in and do something BIG. And God wants more than anything else to do that for you… but He wants you to want it just as much.
And so we must wrestle. Desperately seek His will through His Word and the counsel of others. Beg for His strength and mercy. Live and breathe and eat and drink up Who He is. We must want God more than anything! We have to put our entire beings--everything that we are--into running hard after God. Because it is only when every ounce of our being is focused solely and whole-heartedly on Him that can we can be used the way He wants to use us. Only then can He accomplish His great and perfect will for our lives. Half-hearted prayers and weak desires are not enough. He must bring us to the place where we are desperate for everything He is.
When the sun rose on Jacob that morning, a new day had dawned. He named the place “Peniel,” meaning “face of God.” He had met God face to face, wrestled with Him in desperation and pain, and nothing was the same. He had a new name, a new limp, and a blessing from God. That is what will happen every time we wrestle with God. It will not be easy. It will change who we are. It may leave us scarred. But it will always bring God’s blessing, “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” (Luke 6:38) And we will never be the same.