Links Daily Devotional

The Right Struggle

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.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:24-28, NIV)

Every golfer has at one time or another said, “If I can just get out of my own way.” We say this because we struggle against what we are capable of doing. It begins in our thoughts and manifests in our actions. When we stay stuck in this wrestling match, it is difficult to reach our full potential.

Twenty years prior to the scene in today’s passage, Jacob began a similar struggle. He was sent on the run as a result of harm he experienced from his mother’s deceitfulness and consequent fear for his life. Along the way, Jacob made a commitment to serve God in return for his protection and sustenance. Jacob found his father’s family, Laban, but life was not easy. He had daily conflicts with his two wives and at times struggled against God.

Jacob longed to return to his father Isaac, yet he was filled with fear of encountering his brother Esau, the very one he had been running from. At the Jabbok River, Jacob formulated a plan to gain favor with Esau…first he would send his family and flocks out in waves and then he would follow. Perhaps Jacob stayed back because he was ready to lay it all down before God. A “man” came, they wrestled, and Jacob was determined not to back down in the fight for his heart and life. The man (who would not reveal his name) dislocated Jacob’s hip, but Jacob held his ground and would not let go without a blessing. He knew that this “man” he was encountering was God.

When we wrestle with God, not against him, we are given the eyes to see truth. Jacob recognized the meaning of his name: supplanter, schemer, trickster. And then God gave him a new name, Israel. God took responsibility for Jacob and made way for him to be all he was meant to be, including meeting his brother with humility and kindness instead of fear. Israel means, “Struggle with God.” Jacob went from struggling against (supplanter) to struggling with God. When we struggle with God we grow, mature, and become more of who he created us to be.

For many years, I lived my Christian life struggling against God more than with him. Like Jacob, I was running from disappointment, shame from harm I experienced, and loss. I also hid behind the mask of “successful professional golfer,” believing it was enough. Nearly three years ago, I made a choice to enter into a new journey of struggling with God. It felt risky to start fighting for my own heart by putting words to the truth of my story. And God has given me a new name: beautiful and loved. Although life is not without challenges, it is definitely a life more abundant.

Are you struggling against or with God? Struggling with God requires us to believe we have a story worth fighting for, and we need to name the truth about our experiences (the good and the bad) with kindness. As we wrestle with God through pain, we go the distance—and when we don’t let go, our heavenly Father will give us feet for the path to live in such a way that brings him glory and delight.

Tracy Hanson

August 29, 2013

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