hopefulOne of my favorite stories in all of the Bible is the story of Jacob at the Jabbok – the time when Jacob wrestled with God.  And it is one of my favorites because it is our story; it is my story.

There are times in everyone’s life when a dark moment must come: perhaps it is the lab report which confirms your worst fear.  Or maybe it is the day when an accident leaves you or a loved one paralyzed.  Or the day you receive word of a loved one’s passing.  When all our dreams lay crumbled around us, we are so much like Jacob: down in the dirt wrestling with God.

What good could possibly come from wrestling with God?  What do we expect to happen?  Jacob’s story reveals some insights.

Sometimes, the biggest need in the life of faith is to name God correctly and not reduce God to some false notion or concept.  But most of the time, the greatest need is not to name God, but to name ourselves; to decide who we will be in relation to God.  Jacob came away from his battle with a better understanding of himself, and with a new name – Israel, which means “the faithful struggler.”  When you and I struggle with God, we come away with a new name and I hope that new name is “faithful struggler” because that is who Jesus calls us to be.

But you and I might also come away with a limp, like Jacob.  Sometimes, we lose something in our fight with God.  And that’s as it should be.  It may be those innocent perceptions of God we acquired in our childhood.  It may be those quick and easy answers about faith.  It may even be that the battle shakes our whole understanding of God right down to the foundations, and we have to start all over again. 

But remember this about limps and scars: they are marks of meaning.  When you and I struggle with God, we may come away with a limp or scar, but God can use those marks to make us more aware of how much we – and others – need love, grace, mercy, patience and forgiveness.

Finally, when we wrestle with God, we can expect a solid hope to be birthed from the struggle.  There was a day – much later – when One stood among friends and said, “Touch my scars, Thomas.”  Touch and see that the scars are not the final words about your life.  The final words are resurrection and hope.

The very place of struggle can become for you and me, like Jacob, the setting for salvation and wholeness.  The “sun rose upon him” as he moved on…and he lifted his eyes to deal with the old struggles of life in a new way.

Whatever may die in your battles with God, remember that God not only waves us from our yesterdays, God calls us for tomorrow.