Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Don’t Wrestle God – Wrestle Before Him

Sometimes I listen to myself spew what sounds like insightful theology laced with age-developed wisdom… but it’s not. Not even close.

I was teaching a class on Anger Management and heard myself say, “I stayed in that relationship/situation until I had learned everything God wanted me to learn there.”

The incredulous voice of the Holy Spirit responded immediately. “What?! You didn’t get that from me!”

In my mind I pictured Jacob wrestling all night with a stranger. When the man could not beat Jacob, he touched his hip so that it was wrenched. But still Jacob kept fighting. Before daybreak the stranger asked to be released. But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Then the man said to Jacob, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” And Jacob named the place Peniel because he saw God face to face, “and yet my life was spared.” (Gen. 32:22-32)

Jacob could have terminated the wrestling match earlier. Why did he continue? Why do we? Is it because we become stronger with each fight? Do we want to prove to ourselves that we aren’t losers, or much worse-- quitters?

The day I saw my teaching miss the mark, it had to do with our wrestling matches. God doesn’t orchestrate our life-battles to teach us painful lessons we cannot learn any other way. Are we really stuck in abusive situations because we refuse to leave until God agrees to bless us? To believe such things makes God cruelly uncreative, or much too easy to manipulate.

Where is His holiness and sovereignty in that?

Oswald Chambers wrote,

“We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely character… There is a terrible trap in always asking, ‘What’s the use of this experience?’ We can never measure spiritual matters in that way.” 

God didn’t use that night at Peniel to make Jacob into a more strategic fighter, or to teach him his limitations, or to hone his physical body for future combatants. If that was God’s intent, would He have left Jacob with a permanent injury?

Oswald Chambers:

“… to wrestle with God is unscriptural. If you ever do wrestle with God, you will be crippled for the rest of your life. If you grab hold of God and wrestle with him, as Jacob did, simply because He is working in a way that doesn’t meet with your approval, you force Him to put you out of joint.

“Don’t become a cripple by wrestling with the ways of God; but be someone who wrestles before God with the things of this world.”

Most of my personal life battles have extended their shelf-life because my focus was blurred. I wrestled people instead of loving them. I argued with God instead of yielding to His ways. Every time I have self-righteously insisted that I’m fighting sin, I have really been refusing to release my selfishness.   

There’s nothing to battle when we let go.  

There is an unavoidable problem when I hear myself mis-state a teaching. Should I immediately retract my words and give the issue a second try? Or could I get away with attaching enough subsequent sentences to correct myself without actually admitting I missed the mark?

Resting between those two possibilities is a mountain of pride.

This week I’m opting for a third remedy. Write a column about it and give each student a copy.