Have you ever had one of those moments in life in which you asked God, “Why? Why has this happened to me?” Or maybe you have prayed and prayed for something and no answer came. Maybe you have been praying for the will of God to be revealed to you, yet God seems silent.
There is nothing wrong with bringing your requests to God. Clearly, the Bible teaches us that we have not because we ask not (see James 4:2). Jesus himself taught us that we should keep seeking and keep knocking, and then the answer to our prayers will come in his timing.
So why is it that you find yourself wrestling with God in prayer? Any wrestling match that we have with God is going to end in failure for us. We must recognize that. As it has been said, our arms are too short to box with God. But we shouldn’t let that discourage us or cause us dismay, because the fact is that by losing, we will win. Because one day we will discover God’s plan for us is better than our plans for ourselves. Some of us are a little bit stubborn, and it takes us a while to discover that. So we wrestle God. And God wrestles with us.
The Bible tells the story of Jacob, a man who literally wrestled with God. He had spent most of his life wrestling with people – figuratively speaking, that is. He wrestled with his father, Isaac. He wrestled with his brother, Esau. And he wrestled with his father-in-law, Laban. So that is how God appeared to Jacob.
It is interesting to see how God appeared to different people in Scripture. To Abraham, the pilgrim, God came as a traveler. Prior to the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, three mysterious visitors showed up at the tent of the great patriarch, and one of them was God himself.
To Joshua, the general leading his troops into battle, God appeared as the commander of the Lord’s army, telling him to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground.
And God came to Jacob as a wrestler. The Bible tells us this about God: “To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd” (Psalm 18:26 NIV). Jacob was always conniving, always scheming. He always had a deal going. But God stripped all those things away so that Jacob was alone with him. Genesis 32:24 tells us, “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” But this was no mere angel Jacob was wrestling with. This was a Christophany, an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. We know this because Jacob named the site of the wrestling match Peniel, which means, “I have seen God face to face.”
Commentator Charles Henry Mackintosh said, “To be left alone with God is the only true way of arriving at a just knowledge of ourselves and our ways.”
Have you been alone with God? I think sometimes we are afraid of this. We are so busy. There are things that are worth our attention, but sometimes we can just be too busy. Sometimes we can be so busy that we don’t have time to be alone with God. It is called the barrenness of busyness.
Sometimes we can be so busy with all of our activities that we are never alone with our own thoughts, much less alone with God. In our connected society, do we even have a moment to think? We are barraged with information on demand through e-mailing, tweeting, texting and on it goes. We get into our cars and have multiple stations to choose from, not to mention satellite radio and our iPods. We have hundreds of choices, all with noise, activity and information.
But what about being alone with God? What about being quiet? What about listening?
Maybe you have faced a crisis of late. Something has happened – perhaps a tragic incident of some kind. It has really caught your attention. It has been a wake-up call, a turning point, an epiphany. To put it biblically, it has been a revelation – an understanding of what God wants you to know.
Jacob was a busy guy. He didn’t like to sit still. But in a time of crisis, he found himself alone with God, and a wrestling match ensued. It is kind of humorous that Jacob was wrestling with God as though he could beat him. I think God was humoring Jacob.
God was waiting for Jacob to run out of strength. He was waiting for him to give up. And finally Jacob was exhausted. He had no energy left. And so he went from resisting to resting. He hung on to God and told him, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26 NIV). That was a valid request on Jacob’s part, because in asking for this blessing in surrender to God’s plan, he would find what he always wanted.
That is the proper kind of wrestling with God – when you are desperately calling out to God and not giving up, because you believe what you are asking for is his very will. There is a place for wrestling with God in prayer in the proper way. Sometimes prayer can be a struggle. We will have wrestling matches in which we say, “Lord, I am not going to let you go until you bless me. I am going to keep praying.”
There are certain things you just don’t give up on. Keep praying for that healing if you need it, unless the Lord has directed you otherwise. Keep praying for the will of God to be revealed in your life. Keep praying that God would send a spiritual awakening to your community, to your state and to our nation. Keep praying, and don’t give up.