Wrestling With God

What is going on?! It seems everyone I know is going through massive wrestling with God and grappling to understand the struggles around their lives. I keep seeing my friends wrestle with deep questions of the heart, these are questions surrounding their existence and if is God real, why are these things happening in their lives. It feels scary to be in this place, questioning things so near and dear to heart. But there is a divine mystery here for us to discover. If we take this wrestling within our heart and use it to propel us into God’s heart, we find a hidden treasure.

The revelation God has been showing me is this: Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob has many difficult circumstances going on in his life. He finds himself in a place where his past and his future are colliding in his present. The truth of what has happened in his past, with his parents and his brother used to be far away from him. He had not yet faced the reality of those relationships. He had just gone through a difficult business separation with his father-in-law and was moving away. Now with seeing his brother Esau for the first time in perhaps 15 years or mow, he was suddenly facing the past. Only now he has no certainty of the future.

So much confusion and struggle is going on in his mind. The questions rage through his mind. Where are God’s promised blessings? Why didn’t my father-in-law treat me right? Does Esau even care about me? Did I do the wrong thing by cheating on him for the birthright and blessing? What if my brother kills me? Or what if he kills my family? Do I have a future? Where is God right now? What have I done bringing my family here? What was I thinking? Do I even deserve to live? Does God even care?

Jacob has to deal with so many questions in his heart. He has nothing else if God is not with him. He has given up everything for what? Maybe nothing. He doesn’t know. So we pick up the story in Genesis where Jacob has just left his father-in-law on moderately peaceful terms.

As Jacob started on his way again, angels of God came to meet him. When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, “This is God’s camp!” So he named the place Mahanaim. Genesis 32:1-2 NLT

Jacob knows this is the divine place of heaven and earth colliding. Song of Songs 6:13 reveals “the dance of Mahanaim” (NIV) is also “a dance before two armies” ESV or “between two lines of dancers” (NLT). Jacob can see the angels of God surrounding him. And once again he knows God is with him, even though other things in his life are still unresolved. Jacob gets his family settled in camps and retires for the night.

This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Genesis 32:24,26 NLT

Jacob wrestled until he reached a point of determination, “I will NOT let go, unless you bless me.” Wow! This is such a profound resolution in Jacob’s heart. He prioritised this blessing above anything else which was happening in his life.

“What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Then he blessed Jacob there.
Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” Genesis 32:27-30 NLT

Jacob’s whole identity changed from that wrestling he went through. His name was Jacob – one who deceives, but now his name is Israel – one who rules with God, as God. This is on the other side of wrestling with God; we become like God. As He is, so are we. Jacob knew it. He knew he has been in God’s presence, face to face as one speaks with a friend. Something changed forever.

Herein is our love made perfect, because as he is, so are we in this world. 1 John 4:17 KJB
Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Exodus 33:11 NLT

So we have this mystery of Jacob wrestling with God, which takes him into a new identity. But then David unlocks this revelation even further for us in the well-known passage from Psalm 24.

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face. Selah Psalm 24:3-6 NKJV

As we desire to ascend into the hill of the Lord and to stand in the holy place, we find clean hands, purity with singleness of heart, and Truth are essential elements. But then there is a direct reference to Jacob’s wrestling with God which is now synonymous with seeking God’s face. Only now there is a whole generation who will wrestle with God and seek God’s face until they receive the blessing of God. But wait! There’s more!! David takes us in even deeper still.

Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.
Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle.
Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.
Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies— he is the King of glory. Interlude
Psalm 24:7-10 NLT

In this wrestling, the ancient gates and the ancient doors open up. My heart struggles to comprehend this. In our wrestling with God, the ancient doors open in our lives, and the King of glory, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the Lord of Mahanaim enters. He enters the depths of our heart. He enters into every situation we are in. He is invincible in battle. He is the Lord, strong and mighty. He is the Lord of the dance, the Mahanaim, the wrestle. This is our King of glory.

One final thought of what perspective to have in the midst of our (at times confusing) wrestling. We should remember this; Jesus came to reconcile us into relationship with God, and everything that happens is an opportunity for greater intimacy with God.

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT
For I know what plans I have in mind for you,’ says Adonai, ‘plans for well-being, not for bad things; so that you can have hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 CJB
I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 BSB

As we are wrestling and struggling to reconcile the truth of God in our situations and circumstances, we must stay in this frame of mind. This wrestle is not to discourage us, though the enemy would love for that to happen. This wrestle is an opportunity for our supernatural growth in intimacy of friendship with God.