Sunday, November 4, 2012
Strive with Me
Last week I wrote about anger. I wrote that I had been angry about the loss of our baby. I had been angry that there hasn't seem to be any rest for us. I had been angry because I felt like our cries weren't being heard- cries that weren't (at least to me)-quick fixes like "Lord, just give me a baby". I felt like they were reasonable, pure cries to just feel the Love of Christ in our lives, through the Word and through our families. And it just never came.
I was in church this morning and it struck me-I have been wrestling. I didn't grow up in the church, so my knowledge is often limited when it comes to details. I thought, "Hmm, wrestle. Why would God bring that verb to mind? Someone wrestled with God in the Bible, right?" So, I did what I always do when in the middle of church (or lazy) and need a quick answer- ask my pastor-kid husband.
Sure enough-"Jacob!" (He hates talking in church, as should I, I suppose).
So, I did some studying.
In Genesis 32, Jacob is preparing to meet his brother Esau. Jacob is scared because he thinks Esau wants to kill him for stealing his birthright. Jacob basically tries to sweeten up Esau by sending him animals as gifts ahead of him so he won't be so mad by the time Jacob gets there. He splits his camp into two so that if Esau attacks, one camp can get away and Jacob won't be destroyed. Jacob sends his family ahead of him and is left alone in the camp to wrestle until daybreak with God, in the form of a man. God breaks Jacob's hip and then tells Jacob to let him go.
In Genesis 32:26, Jacob says, "I will not let you go unless you bless me".
So, God gives him a new name-Israel. God names him this because Jacob has struggled with God and has overcome.
Last week I was studying John 1 with some students at school (they have a weekly bible study). One of the questions in our book asked why God gave Simon the new name of Peter when Jesus called him to follow. Honestly, I didn't know the answer. Had I not had my study bible with answers at the bottom of the page, I still wouldn't know. It said that Peter, of all of the disciples, was the one who put his foot in his mouth the most. Christ gave him a new name because he would no longer be this man. He was a new creation. He was redeemed. He would fall, and learn, and ask dumb things, but would eventually be instrumental in spreading the Kingdom.
Is this why Jacob was given a new name? Scripture says that Jacob exclaims he will not let God go until he is blessed, and then God gives him a new name. Like Peter, has he come to some new place in faith, after his wrestling? Why did God wrestle with him? I mean, wrestling implies that you fight back, right?
I read a commentary that said that, at first glance, God's words of "Let me go" in verse 26 can seem harsh. Why would God fight us and then want us to let him go?
Instead, the commentary suggested that God is saying Strive with me. Don’t give up. Pray hard with faith and maybe I will be gracious enough to bless you and grant your request.
In the Old Testament.
God's Word is alive.
I think a lot of times, we, as Christians, are eager to listen to others when life is great. We love to hear praises about what the Lord is doing in someones life. We are more than happy to rejoice with them when life is good. But what about when we wrestle? What happens when God is pruning us, like tries, so that we are cut down in pain for the purpose of growing more beautiful and Christ-like? Don't get me wrong- Ephesians 4 warns us about letting the sun go down in our anger and allowing sin to eat at us until it creates an opportunity for Satan to destroy us.
But, there is something also to be said about honesty. Honestly, my relationship with Christ is not perfect. Not because he is insufficient, but because I am. Sometimes I am so burdened that I don't even want to believe that He loves me or that I can never be separated from his love-I don't deserve it. And, having something I am so undeserving of makes me unbelieving (although this changes nothing about the validity of its truth!). For me, wrestling is essential in helping my unbelief.
I refuse to lie and say that my love for God is always deep, always what it should be. I would be a fraud. I am constantly unsatisfied with my end of our relationship because I am consistently failing the One who spoke the Earth to be- and I hate it. I want so much more of Christ. Isn't that how it should be? Shouldn't we be longing for heaven, never content with our current state because there is more learning to be done? I wish I was always useful for His Kingdom, always a kind, effective witness. I am not, but I am willing to strive until I can be.
So, I wrestled. I am still wrestling. But, I am set apart. I am redeemed. I am a daughter of the King.
This means that instead of wrestling against God, I am striving with Him. I will not give up. I will not let go unless he blesses me. I am praying hard with faith that we will be mended and our dreams redeemed. Even when He seems so far away, our cries unheard and our hope shattered, we will lift our eyes from our empty arms and cast them high on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, not for what He can do for us, but because of what He has already conquered.