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What it feels like to wrestle with God
Pastor Ben Sadler
by Pastor Ben Sadler
January 30, 2020

“What do you want, Lord?”

I whisper this prayer first thing in the morning.

Then before the sun rises, I go to church. I get there early so I can be alone with God. I kneel before him in his sanctuary and ask again, “What do you want, Lord?”

Then I drive. I drive, and I drive. And I shout, “What do you want, Lord?” (I find the car is the best place for shouting out my prayers.)

Each time, I wait. I listen. I remain alert for an answer.

Nothing.

Silence.

I read the Scriptures. I read, and I read. (I’ve heard and I’ve taught that God speaks to us through the Word.)

But no passage jumps off the page.

No sign. No answer. Nothing.

And yet, I haven’t given up. I keep calling out because this is what it feels like to wrestle with God.

Our God is a wrestler.

God wrestles with his people. Do you want proof? Read Genesis 32:22-32. It is the strange and beautiful story of God wrestling with Jacob.

Jacob was no stranger to combat. He was born a wrestler. When his twin brother, Esau, was delivered before him, Jacob grabbed his heel. This tussle was so apparent that his mother named him after this incident. Jacob means “heel grabber.”

Jacob kept striving to find his place in the world, but he never engaged in a fair fight. The Bible describes him as smooth skinned, and he was slippery in more ways than one. When his brother was hungry, he bribed him into giving up his birthright. And when Esau was out hunting, Jacob stole his blessing from their father, Isaac.

Finally, Jacob ran out of tricks as his brother planned on getting his revenge with blood. So Jacob fled to his uncle’s house. But Jacob learned that you can’t outrun your sin. It will finally catch up with you. He knew God was calling him to turn around and go home.

He walked slowly and in fear, not sure how his brother would receive him after all the years. The night before he met Esau, Jacob sent his family and all his possessions to the other side of the river so he could be alone with God.

God met him there in the form of a human being.

And Jacob did what he always does; he wrestled.

He wrestled and wrestled. All through the night he wrestled with God.

God tested Jacob by telling him to let go, to give up for it was daybreak. Yet Jacob responded, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).

In that moment, Jacob learned where to exercise his energy. He was not to fight against humans to gain his place in the world. God wanted him to grab, to hold, to embrace the favor of the Lord with all his might.

God approved of his struggle. In fact, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel, which means “to wrestle with God.” And, in this name, all of God’s people find their identity and purpose.

Don’t let go until he blesses you.

As of this morning, I still don’t have an answer from God. I still don’t know my next move. But I’m not going to let go. I’m not going to stop praying and wrestling until God blesses me.

I know he hasn’t left me because I am his child in Jesus Christ. And he will never forsake his children.

Would you join me? Would you hold on? Would you keep wrestling in prayer with your good God?

He hasn’t left you. In fact, in the silence and in the struggle, he might just be closer to you now than ever before.

Who knows, in the morning, he might just give each of us a new name.