Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wrestling with God

As I have been thinking about Jesus' journey to the cross, I keep coming back to Jesus' time in the Garden of Gethsemane. I am struck by how Matthew describes Jesus in this scene...Jesus throws himself to the ground in prayer. This is not a light-hearted prayer, but a gut wrenching, lay-it-all-out-on-the-line prayer. He asks God, "take this cup from me...but not what I will." There is so much emotion here.
In the process of thinking about this, I am reminded of the time in Gen. 32 when Jacob wrestles with God at Peniel. Jacob's about to meet his brother, from whom he has been estranged for many years. The last time they met, it wasn't a happy meeting. So Jacob has sent all his family and belongings to the other side of the river where Esau is. He waits overnight, when he is met by the form of a man...and he wrestles with him until he gets a blessing from the man.

For some reason my spirit is trying to connect these two stories. The background to each story is very different, but I think there are some profound connections...and I am wondering if anybody would like to venture in exploring those with me.

Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

here's a quick thought: absolute surrender. It is here that Jacob's name is changed to Israel, and it is after this profound experience that Jacob does not deceive again. He is transformed forever, touched profoundly. Surrendered totally, fully to God. Jesus 'wrestles' with the Lord and remains fully surrendered to God's will. Therein lies the difference - Jacob, as a mere man, needs and receives transformation. Jesus, as the God-man, remains 'without sin', and fully surrendered. He is able to help all those who battle with sin, because he was tempted in every way, such as we are, yet does not sin. ~Dad K.

Sam said...


I don't disagree with the first comment, but in addition to it, or maybe even preceding it in the process is the knowledge and embracing of the fact that there is no other place to go (heb 12). Thus the blessing is sought with great ferocity.

The disciples after Jesus broke up his followers: "where else should we go?"

Josh said...


I definitely see the surrender aspect. But this is shaking my idea of surrender. For both Jacob and Jesus there was a struggle in the process.

Jacob didn't just wave the flag of surrender.

Jesus didn't just go, "yup, i'll just take what you bring Father."

Both engaged in a struggle.

I like how you pointed out that Jacob no longer deceived after this. His core identity was altered with his encounter with God.

I noticed that both Jacob and Jesus arise from their wrestlings with a sense of resoluteness towards what lies ahead.

Josh said...


Excellent thoughts as well.

There is no other place to go.

Both Jacob and Jesus are okay with the struggle...and bigger...God is okay with the struggle.

Do you think this has anything to say about doubt?

Nathan said...

Josh, I think there is an aspect of doubt in both situations. I see two men who are desperately seeking...something from God. I see Jacob so full of emotion and doubt that he needs to be blessed, he demands it, he essentially wrestles for it. He doubts what will happen across the when he crosses the brook, so he desperately needs a blessing. And then there is Jesus, who knows that he is going to suffer. And he doesn't want that. He wants to fulfill God's will, but he doubts his ability in this, he doubts what the outcome will be. I definitey think both Jacob and Jesus are unsure of their situations, and their calling out to God for some sort of an answer is total dependence. It's the seeking part of the journey with God that contains growth. This is why God welcomes it here. Because it comes with trust and submission and doubt and genuine faith.

Sorry for the extremely long post.

Nate Youngblood said...

I think we vastly underestimate the level to which the Lord desires us to be honest with him. True relationship isn't found in the blind acquiescence of one party to another. It's found somewhere in the middle. I think about the discussions Moses had with Yahweh regarding the Israelites, and his ability to "talk" the Lord out of judgment. In other words, these conversations with the Lord seem to be incredibly honest, filled with stubbornness, and the willingness to be transformed by the experience. Its a weird combination, and I think ties into the idea of absolute surrender. Can I really surrender if I'm still holding part of my grievance back? Is it more healthy and honest to just let the Lord have the questions, anger, and fear and trust that he is big enough to take the abuse?

Timothy Miller said...

The Jacob scene is precisely why I named my second son Israel. It has nothing to do with affinity for the "holy land," in case anyone wondered.

"Struggles/wrestles with God."

Anonymous said...

Well said, Sam. Ditto, to everyone else. Additional thought: there is no where else to go, and it's okay to 'wrestle' with God through issues and ask the tough questions when things don't make sense to us in our frail, limited, puny, human wisdom. I believe that's why Jacob hangs on... I believe that's possibly why Jesus 'wrestled' as well, knowing the will of the Father from the beginning, yet, in the moment, asking again. I'm not sure if it's doubting the Father, as much as it is not being able to grasp something humanly and knowing the that Father is the only place of safe embrace. ~Dad K.

Jordan said...

I have a short thought: Jacob wrestled with God to save his own skin. He wanted the assurance that Esau wouldn't kill him. Despite his initial self-cetnered motives, God transformed him. God is so patient with us.

Josh said...


no worries about the long's good to hear what you have to say, especially this: "It's the seeking part of the journey with God that contains growth."

Could it be that even before this, Jacob was "seeking" but it wasn't until he was faced with possible elimination (which you and Jordan point out) that he came to actually grappling with God?

Nate Y. brings out something important too...the issue of being honest, stark raving blunt, in relationship with God. Our Creator is big enough to take the heat.

I like how Jordan focused in on the selfish nature of Jacob and the transformative nature of God...Jacob came into the cage match with an agenda and but still left transformed.

Does that have anything to say about Jacob's ability to choose transformation? Is transformation something that you choose, or is it something that is given through a grappling encounter with God?