Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Ivory Palaces"1 (Lyrics)
Genesis 32:24-28 – And so Jacob was left alone, and he struggled with a man until daybreak. When the man realized that he hadn't yet won the struggle, he injured the socket of Jacob's thigh, dislocating it as he wrestled with him, and said, "Let me go, because the dawn has come." "I won't let you go," Jacob replied, "unless you bless me." Then the man asked him, "What's your name?" "Jacob," he responded. "Your name won't be Jacob anymore," the man replied, "but Israel, because you exerted yourself against both God and men, and you've emerged victorious." (ISV)
Every day, I seem to be struggling with something or someone. It may be as trivial as struggling to open a tight jar, or to complete a challenging jigsaw puzzle. Other times, it might be a struggle to get along with a difficult person, or to overcome an injury. And sometimes, I must confess to struggling with God.
I know Christians who seem to be always immovable and unshakeable in their faith, content in every circumstance, praying constantly, and receiving unmistakable answers. Not me. I struggle. I question and search, and question some more.
For those of us who grapple spiritually, we can find some hope in the story of Jacob in Genesis. He made some terrible choices: he tricked his brother and deceived his father in order to secure an inheritance that he wasn't entitled to. Later, he gathered his family and belongings and tried to sneak them all away from his father-in-law. On more than one occasion, he was visited by God and received clear instructions, but he still persisted in making a "Plan B" just in case God's promise wasn't enough. Yet, through it all, God never gave up on Jacob and continued repeating His promise to treat him kindly and multiply his descendants. Jacob kept on trying to get things right, giving God the credit when promises were fulfilled.
At the point of today's passage, Jacob literally struggled with God and refused to let go until God blessed him. That is the first time that God told Jacob his new name, "Israel", which means "he struggles with God". Jacob did struggle, both physically and spiritually — but eventually, he received all that God promised, and then some, being a direct ancestor of Jesus.
God, Who was willing to struggle with Jacob, is able to handle our struggling souls, too. God's promises are stronger than our questions or doubts. It's okay to struggle, as long as we don't let go.
Will you pray with me now?
Prayer: God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, sometimes, we struggle in our faith. We long to remain close to You, but our human nature wrestles with Your Spirit. Lord, forgive us for our doubts. Even more than that, keep struggling with us until we are able to stand strong and solid in You. Thank You for Your grace and patience. Amen.