Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” (Genesis 32:24-26)
Christians are often shocked to find that God does not keep them from times of struggle. Where is “the peace which surpasses all understanding?” If it helps, God allowing suffering goes back as far as the Bible itself. Already in Genesis, God is not simply allowing a struggle to take place, but God is actually the one “wrestling” with Jacob. So, don’t feel bad if you find yourself wrestling with God.
Martin Luther was being chased and forced to hide in Wartburg Castle to avoid being murdered by the Cardinal’s army. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a man of faith, and his calling to speak out about Civil Rights brought him continual struggle. I am sure there were moments when both men asked God to free them from their burden. I feel confident in saying that God said, “No, your call is to struggle on behalf of humanity.” The sad part is, they couldn’t even whine because Jesus had already struggled even more. The greatest global transformations took place because of faithful people willing to struggle for the greater good.
Sometimes our struggles are not as altruistic as the lives of Martin Luther and Dr. King. There are moments when we struggle and even wrestle with God because we are going down a bad road, and God intercedes. Our own stubbornness and sin can cause our struggles to be very intense. Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his rightful inheritance. Jacob was cunning and manipulative, and rather than cast Jacob out, God wrestled with him. The struggle became so rough that “Jacob’s hip was put out of joint.” God fought with Jacob, with the goal of bringing him back to the narrow road of faith.
Today, think about the moments you have struggled the most. Was God allowing you to struggle for a greater good, or perhaps to lead you back to the righteous path? I hate pain and struggle, and while you’re in the midst of it, it is hard to see beyond the immediate pain. Yet, after a time, we are capable of seeing God at work in the struggle. These can be painful moments. Yet, the pain can lead us to a new and more intimate place with God. Don’t just try forgetting the pain, but have the courage to revisit the struggle and find the Spirit’s learning.