I’ve decided to take up wrestling.
Ha, I bet that got your attention! (Or you may just think that’s normal behaviour for me?)
In any case I’m referring to spiritual wrestling. Wrestling with God.
When it comes to our questions and doubts I believe it’s essential, because if we don’t work them through in God’s presence, we’ll either ignore them (and they won’t go away on their own), or deal with them without him, and then perhaps the answers we come up with won’t be his.
Think about human relationships: We reserve small talk and polite conversation for strangers and acquaintances, but our close friends and family get to witness our struggles, questions, embarrassments, disappointments, and doubts (as well as the good bits) because we know that the relationship can handle it, and they might even be able to help us.
How much more God?
Yet we must wrestle in the right way, and so I write this with care.
A Dangerous Fight
God is still God. The one who made and sustains the vastness of the universe. As we limber up for the fight, let’s take this into account, because there are no weight classes here!
We can’t put God in the dock and question him like a human being who must answer our accusations. This is not what I’m suggesting. Remember what God says to Job in chapter 40:
“The Lord said to Job: ‘Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!…Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his?” (Job 40)
Despite Job’s immense suffering (which he is never given answers for), he meets with God and is humbled and astounded by what he finds, saying:
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand… things too wonderful for me to know. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’(Job 42)
This is not a surprise! God warns us of what we’ll find when we seek a serious encounter with him: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
A Merciful Fight
Perhaps you’ve read the mysterious story of Jacob in Genesis 32, where he wrestles with God so that he might receive his blessing?
Jacob himself doesn’t fully realise what is happening till later, he just knows that he’s filled with fear of his vengeful brother Esau, and he desperately needs the help of God. Yet when he does recognise the true nature of the fighter he says “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
What really strikes me about Jacob’s story is that he actually has no right or ability to wrestle God! It’s a reflection of God’s grace and his plans for Jacob that means that he doesn’t perish in the process.
It’s the immense grace of God that allows us to humbly bring our doubts and questions and ask him to help us, to recast them in the light of his sovereign character, wisdom, and plans. We can wrestle with God in a way that honours him by saying ‘God I know that you are wise, good, and powerful, and yet I don’t understand/ I’m angry with you / I’m struggling/ I need help…’
In wrestling like this, we invite God to be God in our situation. We ask him to treat us according to his good character. We express our faith that he can deal with our questions and hurts, by bringing them to him. We wrestle so that we might leave the fight with greater faith and submission.
God has already promised us that he responds to this kind of bold persistence: And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (Luke 18:7-8)
I know this post is getting bit long, but I can’t end without telling you about the heavy weight champion…
The Ultimate Fighter
Sorry if it’s a bit cheesy, but I hope this is a helpful metaphor. The Bible tells us that we are not left to fight alone. There is someone who wrestles on our behalf. Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus Christ fought and defeated sin and death at the cross, and now he intercedes for us at the right hand of God!
This should humble us and give us a hopeful perspective as we prepare to engage with God in our difficulties. The true fight has already been won for us. We wrestle with one who is already on our side!
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-2