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  • Hannah Williamson

Wrestling AND Blessing

Two and a half years ago, I wrote the first page in my ‘physical’ leadership journal and it was about a passage of scripture in Genesis 32 that jumped out of the pages at me. In fact, in the margin of my Bible I wrote on 1stJanuary 2018 ‘this past few years have been years of struggle and I come today tired and saying ‘God, I will not let you go until you bless me.’ Little did I know what the journey I was about to embark on would look like. It would not be one I expected; however, this passage has been one I have gone back to time and time again.

We find Jacob in a strange wrestling match with a man that we later realise is God Himself. He is alone wrestling throughout the night. It comes to an interesting point in verse 26-28 when it says, ‘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.’

Here are a few things I notice from this passage….

1. This wrestling match with God was done alone.

It says in verse 24 ‘…so Jacob was left alone.’ Often when it comes to spiritual wrestling it is not a group event. When working through pain or disappointment with God it’s something that only you can do with Him. After a painful year in September of 2019 I went away for a few days to wrestle with God. Hopes in my life had been dashed and I felt huge levels of disappointment weighing down on me. I needed to meet God desperately…. I needed to wrestle out what I was feeling with Him and Him alone.

2. The wrestle resulted in a new identity

In verse 28 God says to Jacob ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.’ Something happened in the wrestle that resulted in a name change. It was a significant moment that would have far reaching implications. Think about it…. the nation of Israel was named then and is still named Israel today. Something new and longstanding came out of a wrestle with God. I believe there are times in life where we face pain and have to wrestle it out with God. It can seem pointless at the time, but it is ever so purposeful to our future.

3. The wrestle became a lesson in overcoming.

Verse 28 goes on to say ‘…. because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’ At times we may wonder why God leads us down a certain path of pain. It can seem long and unfair but if there is anything, we can learn through it, it is that we can be overcomers. Jacob wrestled throughout the night. If you have ever not been able to sleep at night, it can feel so long. Imagine wrestling through a night in darkness and with God. This was certainly a time to learn what it means to overcome pain.

4. Blessing and wrestling were side by side.

I’ve noticed over the past few years that pain, and contentment sit side by side. Sometimes I imagine them as two people who are standing back to back. They don’t seem to go together, pain and contentment. But I think I’ve learnt that they are like two people standing side by side. They are not necessarily enemies but like co-workers. You can have both. You can be both happy and sad. You can be in deep pain but feel deep contentment. It’s only possible with God - but it is possible! Jacob finds himself in a painful situation wrestling with God (which resulted in an injury I note!) but at the same time facing deep blessing. He saw God face to face. He got given a new incredible identity. He learnt to overcome. I think we have to just learn to manage them both. Manage the ‘and.’ Fear AND courage. Pain AND contentment. Sad AND happy.

Here are a few ways you can help yourself when it comes to living in a place of both blessing and wrestling….

· ALWAYS find something to be thankful for – in every circumstance! Look for the blessings!

· Don’t be afraid to come before God and wrestle out your pain – this passage shows us He’s up for a wrestling match!

· Find the things that ‘fill your tank’ and when you are down, make sure you do one of these things – for me it’s going for a long walk, speaking to a good friend, reading a good book, spending time with my family, playing the piano.

· Always look for something to learn from in the wrestle….see it as something that is worthwhile despite the pain.

· Always look at how the wrestle can change you – your outlook on life, your understanding of God. Maybe you, like Jacob may be forever changed!

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