A Wrestling Heart

Do you ever wrestle with God?

When God takes you down a path you don’t like or when your face fears that seem like they will consume you, have you ever cried out to God and wrestled with him and asked him to take it away? Have you ever fought God on an issue of the heart when deep down you realize true surrender is the only way? I always get upset at myself for showing such weak faith in God during these times. Surely doubting and not trusting God is not a good sign for my faith. But what if God actually delights in seeing us wrestle? What if our wrestling heart is actually a sign that we truly are among God’s chosen? What if wrestling constantly is actually the only way to a fully surrendered heart for God?

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about the life of Jacob and especially about the story in the Bible where Jacob wrestles God. If you have been following along with my journey through Genesis, this is the next big story that I am finding so much encouragement from. During my bible study we spent a lot of time discussing this story. I am just amazed and in aw at what took place in Jacobs life. Jacob physically wrestled God! If you aren’t familiar with the story here it is from Genesis;

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  The man asked him, “What is your name?”“Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”  
 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Genesis 32:24-30)

It is believed that this ‘man’ who wrestled Jacob was possible a pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ. Some think that maybe it was an angle of God. But we know that it was no ordinary man that wrestled Jacob that night. I wonder, what was it like? Did this ‘man’ approach Jacob slowly and come out of the shadows, or did he attack Jacob head on with much vigor? What must Jacob have been thinking? Jacob was scared. In the verses before this passage, Jacob is afraid for his life because his brother Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob said the most honest prayer asking God to save him and now he is all alone, waiting.

I can relate to Jacob in this place. He is alone, he is scared of the future, he is at a point in his life where all he can do is wait. Waiting to see if God hears and how God will answer. This is probably one of the hardest places to be. I was just talking to my mom the other day about how hard it is being in a place where you don’t know what God is going to do. Whether God does one thing or another thing in my life, my heart would have so much more peace if I could just know what is going to happen. But no, God hasn’t let me in on what he’s doing, and Jacob didn’t know either how God was going to answer him.

But it was in that waiting time, while he was alone, that God came and met Jacob. The ‘man’ came and wrestled with Jacob till morning. The part about this story that intrigues me the most is that Jacob was actually able to have some sort of advantage in the fight. They kept fighting and fighting and neither one would relent. Even when the ‘man’ touched Jacob’s hip and put it out by just one touch. Jacob had to know then that this man he was wrestling was God, and yet, Jacob still fought. Jacob refused to stop until the man blessed him.

Let’s take a break and look at this idea of wrestling for a little bit. Jacob physically wrestled with God, but I think that in our christian life, we often partake in a similar type of wrestling. We wrestle spiritually with God. When we don’t know what God is doing or when God takes us somewhere that is hard and hurts, don’t we often cry out to him and tell him no. We tell God we don’t want to go down this path, but we also want Him, so we wrestle. We wrestle with our desires for the good things of this world and a desire to want God above all these things. If you take a look at the psalms there are countless times that the psalmist cries out to God in agony. Yet the psalmist always goes back to praising and trusting God.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (Psalm 22:1-5)

This makes me think that God must like this wrestling we do with Him. That when we come to God with our questions and we wrestle inwardly with our conflict of desires, God looks on us and smiles. God is there with us as we wrestle. He wants us to choose Him. He is delighting in the fact that we are wrestling so much about following Him. I wonder how many people God has watched walk away from Him the moment hard seasons come, without even putting up a fight. Fighting is proof that you have something in you greater than them. You wrestle because God has got a hold of your heart, and even though it’s hard and you want to run, there’s something in you that says no, stay, wait. You know that you want God more.

As I was thinking more about this idea of wrestling with God, I thought about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Easter is coming up in a few weeks so this story may be fresh in your minds. But on the night of Jesus’s crucifixion, Jesus knew the pain and agony he was about to walk through. He wrestled with God in the garden. He wrestled so hard His sweat was like drops of blood. He prayed and asked God if there was any other way. And yet Jesus also said, “not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus was perfect, sinless, but also human. He wrestled with God, he didn’t want to go through all the pain, but Jesus was also fully surrendered to God as he wrestled. This is the perfect example of godly wrestling with God. It is fully surrendered to God and it always ends with a “not my will, but yours be done.”

Is your wrestling with God fully surrendered? When you take your questions and hurts to God, do you end by saying “your will be done”? I don’t know about you, but I find so much comfort in knowing that it’s okay for my heart to wrestle with God. It’s okay to go to God and tell him my heart, tell him how much I hurt, tell him I want out. I know God hears me. But I also tell God, I want Him more, I want to follow him and I trust that whatever his will is for me, it’ll be good.

Okay, this post is getting long. But there’s one last thing I want to share from this story. So back to the story of Jacob. In the end, when morning finally comes, Jacob refuses to let the ‘man’ go until he blesses him. Jacob knows this man has the power to bless him so he clings onto him and asks for a blessing. And he did get a blessing.

Did you know that God is waiting to bless you too. The Bible is full of blessing and promises that apply to us. During the time of waiting when Jacob was scared, he held tightly onto the blessing of God. When we are in these seasons of waiting and wrestling with God, God’s blessings are all within our reach. They are truths that we can hold onto and rest in. If you are worried about the future God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). If you are dealing with a broken heart God promises to be near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18). If you don’t see any good in the path your on you can know that God is working all things our for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). So, as you’re wrestling, reach out, find a blessing, and hold onto it. Let the truth of that blessing carry you through and give you hope.

As you go through this Christian walk, remember that a wrestling heart is a beautiful thing to God. God loves it when we take our deepest worries and concerns to Him. We wrestle, yet we remain fully surrender to God. As we wrestle, we find rest in knowing that God’s ways truly are best and his promises to us are good. I pray that as your wrestle, you will find promises to hold onto. Jacob had no idea that the next day Esau was going to welcome him, not attack him. You are on the verge of God’s blessing and I know it’s hard. I’m in the dark too during this season in my life. But keep wrestling, and keep choosing God, and God will bring you safely through the night into a new day full of his blessing, just like he did with Jacob.

Shining Faith

True faith shines the brightest when we reach our lowest low.

I’m realizing something. The more I study the Bible and read about all the different people in the Bible, I see a pattern. All God’s people who were known for their great faith were not perfect people. They didn’t have perfect lives. They didn’t instantly have the faith that can move mountains. But they did have one thing; a strong resolve to follow God and obey God’s voice in every circumstance.

At my church the pastor has been preaching through the book of Hebrews and he currently is in chapter 11. The great chapter about faith. This chapter in Hebrews speaks of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David… to name a few. All these men went through many long seasons of waiting and suffering. All of these men also made some very bad choices that lead to some terrible sins. How is it then that these men are all listed in Hebrews 11 as great men of faith?

I think that we all wish somehow that we could attain such great depths of faith without doing all the hard work of trusting God through every circumstance. That would be everyone’s dream goal, right. To know God deeply without having any of the hard trials and suffering in our life. It’s a great idea but it isn’t really realistic. Because I’m beginning to see that the reason all these men are remembered for their faith is because of all the trials God took them through. They walked with God through the fires of life and never stopped choosing God even when things were hard. They came out with shining faith and even though they sometimes made mistakes, they always turned back to God.

Here’s the thing about faith. Suffering and trials make faith grow. When God’s people cling to God through the hard days and rough waters of life, they become stronger. God grows their character and makes their love and resolve for obeying God even stronger than it was before. Suffering and trials cause God’s people to draw nearer and dearer to God. Here are just a few verses from the New Testament to shed some more light on the purpose of suffering and trials;

"Count it all joy my brother when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4
"In this you rejoice, if now for a little while, if necessary, you have been tested by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-7

Shining faith is something that is made, not given. Granted, there may be a few cases where God gives people supernatural faith through the work of His Spirit. But more often than not, having great faith is a process. If we want to be remembered for having great faith then we should be prepared for trials and suffering. And there will be times when we make mistakes and fail, just like all the men in the Bible did. Oh what a wonderful thing it is that God promises to only remember us for ways we serve him!

So let us be encouraged that God doesn’t remember us for our mistakes. All the great people of faith in the Bible were sinful people and they sinned. They were broken people. But God remembers them by their faith, not their mistakes. God will remember us for our faith too!

To be broken is only the beginning of being used by God for great things. Trials, suffering, and seasons of waiting in our life are the building blocks of great faith. When trials come, rejoice. When suffering comes, draw near to God. Whatever path God takes you down, stay focused on God. This is how your faith is grown. If you simply allow God to lead you through the trials of life, before you know it your faith will be shining for all to see, just like the great men of faith in Hebrews 11. So let us strive each day for this shining faith that God gives to his dearest of children.

Doing Nothing

I went on a walk and I talked to God a bit.

I was thinking of all the possible ways that God could be working things out for me in my situation. I thought about what my heart wanted and the different ways God could restore it all back to me. I thought about the little bit of news that I do know and the little ways in which I do know that God has been working. But for how long I spent thinking about it, I also realized that there really is only one thing I can do. All I can do right now is do nothing.

Let me tell you, doing nothing isn’t easy. Doing nothing is the hardest thing ever. I really want to know what God is up to so I can offer my assistance somehow. I don’t like being in the dark. I hate being in this place of not knowing what God is doing in his life. But I also know that it’s not my place right now to know what God is doing. Nor is it my job to help God as he’s working.

I am confident that God is working. I don’t know how to explain to you all this feeling that I have, I just know that God is working and doing mighty things for me. But with a reluctant heart I have to admit to knowing that if I want God to keep working I need to do nothing. When I do nothing, then I can be fully assured that God is the one working. Doing nothing is the only way to show full dependance on God in my situation.

All the great characters of the Bible, when they were in times of hurt and mistreatment, they did nothing. When I read my Bible I can see how God was working for them. I see the outcome of their struggles, but I also need to remember that they didn’t see the answer. They probably felt a lot like me, in the dark about God’s plans for them. And what did they do? They did nothing so God could work. I imagine it must have been hard for them, as it is hard for me, but they knew it was necessary.

I let out a strangely relieved sigh as I finished my walk. Doing nothing is what God has called me to do right now. Doing nothing may be the hardest task God has ever asked me to do but I know he has given me the strength to do it. Doing nothing is what I am choosing to do right now and somehow that brings a sense of peace to my heart. I choose to do nothing so God can work and get all the glory.

Encouragement for Waiting

Well, I have talked about Abraham, and Job, and David.

All great men of faith whose stories I found out all correlate with mine in some way. And now I want to talk about another Bible character whom I am just now finding out I have another connection with. I have been studying the book of Genesis with my bible study group (I attend an international bible study called BSF) and we are currently reading through the life of Jacob.

Jacob was Abraham’s grandson, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and a twin to his brother Esau. Jacobs story is a messy story. His family life was full of sin and issues, not much different from families today actually. Isaac favored Esau even through the Lord had said that Jacob, the younger brother, would be the one blessed. One day Isaac had the crazy idea to try and bless Esau instead of Jacob, which led to the crazy story of how Jacob deceived his own father into giving him the blessing.

Long story short, Esau wasn’t happy and Jacob was sent away in order to save his life. Jacob had to face the consequences of his sinful choices. Now he was alone and far from his home. The Bible tells us that Jacob was a home-body and that he loved his mother. Sadly, he was never going to see his mother again. I’ll pause here for a moment to say something. Sin never gives us what we want without devastating consequences. Jacob may have got the blessing, but now he was alone and fleeing for his life. Things would have been different if he trusted in God’s timing.

When we choose sin, at first it may seem okay, but sin will always come back to bite us. It’s almost scary how much my life is like a reflection of what Jacob is dealing with. In a way, I can relate to how Jacob must feel. He is alone, in a new place, and those he loves most are no longer with him. There was sin issues in the relationship I had. Even though it wasn’t my sin, but rather his sin in our relationship, it still resulted in both of us getting hurt. Now I find myself alone, in a new place, and far from the one I love, just like Jacob. In both my case and Jacobs case, it was due to sin issues in the family and relationships.

But now let’s get back to the story for some more encouraging news. While Jacob is alone and traveling to a new place he stops along the way to sleep. He lays his head on a rock and he has a dream. You probably are familiar with what he dreamed. In his dream he saw angels descending and ascending on a ladder and God was at the top of the ladder. God spoke to Jacob in that dream and told him this promise;

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 28:15

What an amazing promise this is! Jacob must have felt so encouraged after hearing God say those words. God was basically saying to Jacob that he is still with Jacob in this new place and he has a plan and a purpose for Jacob in this new place. God tells Jacob that he will bring him back to his home again when the time is right. I know that God is speaking the same promise to me in my life too. God is with me in this new place and he has a plan for me still. Even though this isn’t the place I want to be right now, I know that being here is a part of God’s plan for me and that God won’t ever leave me.

I find comfort also in the fact that God told Jacob in his dream that he would one day bring him back to the land he had left. And as we see in Jacobs story, after many years away, he eventually does return home. This is my hope too, that this promise is going to be true for me too and hopefully it won’t take as many years as it did for Jacob. Right now I don’t understand what God is doing in my life or why he took me to this new place, but I do believe that God will once again return me to the joy that I had before, whether it physically means returning to the place I left or finding a new home up here (of course I pray and long for the first option most 😉 ).

So, in conclusion, Jacobs story in Genesis gives me hope and encourages me to keep on persevering. It reminds me that even when I feel alone and am missing those whom I love, God is always with me. This story reminds me that God has a purpose for me while I am in this new place and in his perfect timing and perfect way, he will bring me back to the place where my heart longs to be. I can rest in God during this season of waiting and be confident that God is always working things out for my good.

The Purpose of Waiting

I realized something the other day

I was having my quiet time with God in the morning with my coffee. I’ve been reading from a devotional called “Embraced” by Lysa Terkeurst. The devotion for the day I read talked about the life of David. I love the story of David. His story in the Bible is so encouraging, definitely one of my favorites. As I was reading the devotion though, something happened. I saw myself in the life of David! I had a rough weekend, it being Valentines week and not being able to be with my guy. So my heart was hurting and feeling a lot of pain. The correlation I was able to make with David’s life and mine was the perfect little pick-me-up for my soul. I know God loves me so much because he always shows me just the right Bible story/verse when I need them.

Anyway, like I said, I saw myself in the life of David. David was God’s chosen king for Israel. He was a man after God’s own heart. But even though David was called to such a important role in God’s kingdom, David didn’t get to be king right away. David had to wait for God’s perfect timing. And David’s life wasn’t easy while he waited. Saul threatened David many times and tried to kill David. Much of David’s life was spent in hiding from Saul. I don’t know if you ever get this vibe from reading the Bible, but it seems like God is always asking his people to wait. He takes his people through seasons of waiting before he lets them step into their calling.

Why is God constantly making his people wait? What good does waiting do for us? There are so many times in our lives that God takes us through seasons of waiting. Waiting for the right guy to come along when it feels like you’ve been single forever, waiting to have children when you have struggled long with infertility, waiting for guidance when you find your life at a crossroads. I could go on and on. I have had many season of waiting in my life and here I am in another one.

One thing I’ve learned is that waiting draws us closer to God in new ways. During the times when our hearts are breaking, God becomes our comfort. When our future’s a big looming mystery, we learn to fully trust in God as we move forward. Waiting is a time when God comes near to us and strengthens our faith. Waiting is how God prepares us for what is to come!

Let’s go back to the life of David. The rough season that David spent waiting to be king, was a what made David into the amazing king we see in the Bible. The time David spent as a shepherd taught him to lead people humbly and with devoted care. His time running from Saul made David into a warrior who relied heavily on the Lord for every move. Without the seasons of waiting, David would not have been the man after God’s own heart that we know him to be.

One more little aspect about David’s life I found encouraging, was there were two times that David had the chance to kill Saul and end his waiting. But David would not kill the Lord’s anointed. He trusted God so much that he knew in God’s timing and God’s way he would become king.

Oh wow, I just got to say, this is just so encouraging to my heart! David’s faith inspires me so much! I know that there have been times in my relationship I’ve wanted to ignore God’s voice telling me to wait and make things happen on my own. How easy it can be for us to ignore God’s call and try to make things happen in our own way. But the story of David in the Bible has showed me that a heart that is devoted to God is a heart that is fully surrendered to God and it is a heart that is willing to wait for God’s perfect timing. And it’s so encouraging to know the seasons of waiting we go through are never in vain. God is using the times of waiting in our life to prepare us for the calling he has for us in the future.

Just think for a moment of all the people you can help and encourage once you get to the other side of your waiting season. Think of how much closer and sweeter your walk with God will be because you learned to trust Him fully during this time of surrendering. No matter how hopeless you’re situation is, we have such an amazing God who is using all things for His glory and His good. Just like with David, God has a purpose for our waiting. God is going to use our time of waiting to prepare us for what comes next. In God’s perfect timing our waiting will come to an end. But until then, we need to keep trusting, keep choosing, and keep chasing after God.