7 Jul 2015
To our imagination, the scene of Jacob wrestling this mysterious man from God looks strange. After all, we know God to be loving and encouraging: remember yesterday’s story of how Jesus said to the hemorrhaging woman, “Courage, daughter! Be not afraid.” We know God to be a loving God. And yet, here, Jacob is basically attacked by a man sent by God. And the idea that God is behind all that can be unsettling.
Yesterday, Jesus said, “Courage! Don’t be afraid to come to me.” And today, God seems to say, “Look out!—because I’m going to be a pain in your butt.” Very different messages. Very different. And yet, they’re two sides of what it means to be a companion of Christ.
How many of us have moments of pride? Or times of laziness in our faith, or times when get angry over the silliest things? How often do we expect others to love us, and yet, we don’t love others? There are all sorts of barriers between God and us. And there are barriers between friends and neighbors. Unforgiveness is a particularly hard wall to break down. And God is constantly trying to break those barriers within us.
Maybe God puts certain people in our lives so that we can wrestle with him inside of us. Maybe there’s a bad habit we know that isn’t good for us, and yet we can’t give it up. Maybe we’re convinced of our own rightness and yet, because of some situation in life, God is wrestling with us on the ground saying: “Don’t be so quick to judge—I am God, I am Wisdom, not you.”
And in the midst of all that, God sends the greatest of his messengers, the Son of God himself, to give us something really hard to wrestle with. We hear his word from yesterday: “Courage! Take courage!” And that’s what we wrestle with. It’s one thing to enjoy Jesus when things are going well. It’s another to be faithful to him when he’s trying to wrestle something out of us that shouldn’t be there—and it’s causing us pain. Either way, he challenges us to: “Take courage!”
Sometimes our encounter with God is very sweet and delicious. Other times, it’s more like a knock-out wrestling match on the ground. And, in those times, chances are we’ll up a little beaten, a little worn; maybe some of our strength will be taken. But, really, what God is trying to do is make us reliant on him, and not ourselves.
When the dust was settled, even though he’d beaten up a bit, Jacob was much stronger and more at peace because God was his new-found strength. And even though we might get shaken up in our encounters with God, we can be as joyful and content as Jacob. And that happens when we take courage and really believe that God sometimes makes us weak to make us strong.
In both the good and bad times of our faith, God is always with us. So, take courage, and trust in what God is doing.