Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Fighting sports – boxing, ultimate fighting, wrestling – aren’t on my list of “things to do or watch.” I must admit – of the fighting sports, wrestling of any kind is lowest on my list. I’m not sure why really, but I think the biggest issue might be the constant contact involved. As I understand wrestling, it’s about grabbing hold of your opponent. Then, while maintaining contact, struggling to maneuver them into a position of submission while you try to avoid being maneuvered into the same. However, this constant contact, demonstrated by wrestling, can be a good metaphor as we endure and overcome struggles in life.
One of the bible’s great stories is about a wrestling match that takes place during the night. Jacob was pretty good at manipulating things to get what he wants through sleight-of-hand … he tried to outduel his twin-brother Esau to be the firstborn (Genesis 25:19-26), then he schemed the firstborn’s birthright away from Esau with a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:28-34), and finally he maneuvered the inheritance away from Esau by tricking his father Isaac (Genesis 27:1-40).
As Jacob was set to face Esau later in life, his trickery met it’s match. God decided it was time to let this man, whom He’d use to fulfill His promise to Abraham, know that he needed to trust more in God for success than his own wits and abilities. God appeared to Jacob in the middle of the night, as a man, for a wrestling match. It seems the night-long match was pretty much a stalemate until God, using His own sleight-of-hand, touched Jacob’s hip and put it out of joint. But Jacob, recognizing his opponent as God, continued gripping God saying, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” As happens often to God’s people, when God bestows a special blessing on them, He also changes their name (e.g. “Abram and Sarai” to “Abraham and Sarah” (Genesis 17:5,15)). God changes Jacob’s name to “Israel” (from “he cheats” to “he who wrestles with God and wins”). By his constant contact with God, struggling with Him in faith, Jacob overcomes God’s wrath and receives His blessing.
Through this example, God shows us the importance of wrestling with Him in faith. We wrestle with Him in a number of ways. First, we have steady contact with Him through regular worship … experiencing His grace in forgiveness as we confess our sin and partaking in Christ’s real presence in Holy Communion. Then, throughout the week, we maintain contact with God whenever we wrestle with His Word in daily devotion and study. Here we learn God’s will for us … a will we don’t always understand or agree with. However, in moments like this, the wrestling continues as we go to Him in prayer, turning to Him in faith. We ask Him to give us understanding of and the strength to do His will, even as we find it impossible on our own. As we struggle, wrestle, and contend with God in all these ways, He strengthens us just as He’s strengthened His faithful people who’ve gone before us in faith. In faith, He enables us to do more than we can ever imagine on our own (Ephesians 3:20).
Your Brother in Christ,