Do you ever feel as if you are wrestling? Do you ever wonder if you are engaged in a high stakes fight, one that contains much significance even if the reason is not entirely revealed in the moment?
We all struggle. Moments in our lives can cause us to doubt, to wonder whether or not the right decision was made. Or if the world is aligned against you — perhaps even God Himself.
“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.” Genesis 32:24-26
Wrestling is an activity that consumed many of the last several years since our lives changed forever. We struggled with it all — the role of God, the people who offered trite and insensitive remarks, wave after wave of adversity that came our way. Even the rejection felt by extended family and close friends. The doctors, law enforcement, and countless other professionals who appeared to be so blatantly in the wrong.
The Wrestling Ends
Eventually one runs out of energy to wrestle. Even if no end result is reached, no satisfying answers found or proffered. Even our most fruitful ventures must finally reach an end. In the immortal words of the inimitable Forrest Gump, “Sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”
Maybe there is more. A skill set developed for grappling with big questions. Understanding emotions, humanity and deeper empathy for those in the struggle. Encouragement to have encountered something beyond what we thought we could survive and have learned more. Answers are found even if not the ones you were looking for.
Some great men and women of faith will tell you that wrestling is wrong. They point to the story of Jacob and declare that his bum hip was a punishment for sin. We are no theologians; yet, somehow this explanation seems to be a rather ill-conceived conclusion. The old Greek aphorism was to Know Thyself. Self-discovery involves exploring the caverns and recesses of both our hearts and minds. Difficult truths cause questions. To plumb the depths of all the emotions can cause struggle. The key is to where it leads.
Jacob Receives the Blessing
Jacob refused to end his bout on that fateful night. He kept wrestling. He determined to hold on for the blessing. He wanted to be blessed by God, to receive the approval of the Deity that will never be fully understood from the vantage point we all have from this earth. Jacob wanted God to bless him; and, for those who know the story, he receives the blessing in the end.
“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28
He did not know the blessing he would receive. No requests were made, no limitations on the gift to be given. No compromise made in favor of a blessing. He trusted that God had good in store for him. Jacob wrestled with both God and humans, and he triumphed. The biblical account shows us that God honored Jacob’s willingness to wrestle, rather than to quietly muddle through. Wrestling is equated with honor, an activity worthy of praise.
Isn’t this something we all do? No matter what we believe, do we not struggle with the idea of faith or a divine being? Do we not struggle with the people around us, some close while others distant? For some we feel love, and for others we feel indifference. Do we not all struggle regardless of social status, ethnicity, religion or economic class?
Healing Through Wrestling
There are many of you wrestling: personally and professionally, spiritually and emotionally. Some of us want answers, while others derive some sort of solace or enjoyment out of engaging in the perpetual struggle. Remaining engaged can help preserve the faith you had before tragedy befell you and nurture belief into something more. A mustard seed to a tree. Growth takes time and includes loss and pain. The result can mature into something much more satisfying and impactful.
For those of you in the midst of great suffering, keep wrestling. Ask the hard questions, take great pains to seek answers. To find meaning in the moments of doubt and suffering. To find hope in the fact that Jacob in the end receives the blessing. Take heart in knowing that the days of wrestling will end, that tools can be employed to ease a burdened mind and lighten a heavy load. Wrestling does not have to be a permanent state. As for the blessing, who are we to predict? You have to keep going in order to find out how the story ends. Our advice? Never stop holding on for the blessing.