One of those tricky Old Testament passages which always confounded me is the famous story of Jacob wrestling with God (Genesis 32:22-32 if you want to read it)
The idea always puzzled me, and more so that Jacob prevailed. How can a man wrestle with God and overcome?!
I received an epiphany of sorts on this, on the floor of a mixed martial arts gym where I used to train. The testosterone fuelled atmosphere and stench of stale sweat didn’t make for the usual setting of such a divine revelation, but hey if God can speak through Baalam’s mule? (I’ve met a few preachers who speak out of their ass too).
We were privileged to receive our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training from a notable black belt, believed to be the first to bring the art to the UK. BJJ is an incredible art, and one that sadly I suck at. All the machismo and egotism goes away when you step out onto those mats. There is only trained or untrained. The art is designed to use an opponents strength and weight against them; I learned this the hard way when I got owned by a skinny 19 year old in my first session. Didn’t see that coming.
What the hell does this have to do with Jacob you may ask? BJJ is a grappling art. Part of the training is to grapple with people of the same level, people of a lower level and people of a higher level. Part of my training was grappling my teacher. Sparring with someone who could end your life in two seconds without breaking a sweat is a humbling experience. The feeling of utter helplessness takes your mind to a place where you face big questions. I have watched people of far greater strength and skill than myself spar with the black belt, and the effortless poetry with which he dominated them was awe inspiring. But his purpose was not only to demonstrate his power, as when God struck Jacob’s hip, but to allow me to fight. To allow me to perform moves which he could easily escape, but didn’t so that I might learn. Sometimes he allowed me to take the victory so that I could learn to struggle and to overcome. Sometimes I think it’s like that with God.
A pivotal moment in my walk with God was during one of the darkest nights of my soul. I time when I stood in the street shouting at the heavens like a lunatic, furious with God and demanding answers like Job. God took me to the point where I hated Him, and yet his love remained faithful to me. That was where I learned that His love and mercy are truly unconditional. My walk with Christ has often been characterised by struggle. I have wrestled with the Master, or rather He withheld His strength and allowed me to wrestle with Him, in order that I might learn to overcome.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)
Have there been times where you felt like you wrestled with God?
What struggles have you learned from?
I’d love to hear some of your story in the comments section below….