Daily Devotions

Our Own Wrestling Match

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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.

Deep Roots

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“So he built an altar there, called on the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.” (Genesis 26:25)

 

Yesterday, I talked about all the moving I’ve done in my life and how we are called to trust God amidst life’s transitions. Today’s Scripture, Genesis 26:25, describes God’s telling Isaac to “pitch his tent,” “dig a well” and set down roots.

 

Life requires roots. We had a neighbor when lived in Wisconsin who had a tall pine in his yard. One night there was a terrible storm with wicked winds. When they looked out their window the next morning, one of their huge pines had toppled. When it came down, the tree’s entire root system pulled up with it. A pine trees’ root system spreads horizontally, just below the surface, which makes it vulnerable in high winds.

 

When we live shallow lives, it is easy for our world to topple over. Everyone needs some type of root system in order to be strong. While I moved a great deal in my life, I believe my roots run deep, because of the blessings in my faith and its nurture through the many churches and its people. God and church families can be the best root system. No matter where I have lived, loving and supportive churches have strengthened my faith and nurtured my life. I hope and pray you’ve had similar experiences.

 

Today, think about the root system in your life. Consider the roots you’ve developed and the roots you helped others nurture. Ask God to respond to you like the Divine One did with Isaac. Pitch your tent and dig your well. Pray about what that means for your life. It should mean committing to your local church, your community, and its people. For example, it may include volunteering at a homeless shelter or a school. It means embracing the church where you attend, and make it a lifelong commitment. It means accepting your place in this world and making the most of it. With deep roots, you can do great things in God’s name.

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