Wrestling with God
Life is not easy especially for Christians. Perhaps it is because we are more sensitive to the evil around us; perhaps it is because we are more of a target of the enemy; or perhaps it is because sometimes we expect God to rescue us. Anyway you cut it, there are times when we struggle with life and in the midst of that struggle we begin to wrestle with God.
The prophet Habakkuk once wrestled with God. He lived in a world just like ours today. As he described it the law was ignored, justice was perverted, and the wicked surrounded the righteous. It was a world of violence in which evil seemed to thrive. Habakkuk was frustrated not only by the injustice around him but also by God’s apparent failure to hear his cries. In Habakkuk 1:2 he pleads with God “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear?” Evidently, the prophet had been wrestling with God for some time and yet God did not seem to respond. What we learn in the book of Habakkuk was that God actually had heard the pleas of the prophet and did have a plan in place to deal with the problem. God’s plan was something that Habakkuk would never have expected and most likely would never have wanted. Essentially, God tells Habakkuk that things were going to get a lot worst before they got any better. In verse 5 of Habakkuk 1, God declares “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days – you would not believe if you were told.” God goes on to describe how He will use the fierce and evil Chaldeans as an instrument of justice. It will appear to Habakkuk that evil has increased its grip on the world but the truth will be that God will be at work. And His command to Habakkuk who was going to have to live through the terrible times that were coming – be in AWE.
By the end of the book of Habakkuk that is exactly Habakkuk’s response. Habakkuk’s final prayer is one of wonder and awe at the Work of God in the midst of suffering. As found in Habakkuk 3:17-19 :
“Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.”
Habakkuk wrestled with God, God told him that things were going to get worst, and Habakkuk came to a point of acceptance of God’s will. That seems to be a theme in the Bible because it is exactly what happened to Jacob when he wrestled with God.
Jacob was about to face what he feared was to be his greatest challenge. His brother Esau was approaching with 400 armed men and to the best of his knowledge Esau was going to carry out his pledge to kill Jacob. Jacob decided to spend what might be his last night in prayer. Instead of a peaceful time of prayer however, God appeared to Jacob and began wrestling with him. This was the real deal – it was not a struggle of minds or will – it was physical. Jacob found himself fighting God. During the match, God touched Jacob’s leg and made him lame. So here was Jacob seeking God’s protection for the battle to come and instead of providing Jacob with confidence, power or authority, He weakens Jacob. You might guess that Jacob would say to God - Thanks a lot God, I came to you for help and all you do is make matters worst. Which, when you think about it might have been Habakkuk’s response as well. But instead of complaining, Jacob held on and would not let go. That is the ultimate lesson, when life gets tough it is all right to wrestle with God as long as we are committed to hold on to Him and never let go, no matter what happens.
I recently had the opportunity to watch this lesson play out in the life of a believer. My wife provides Biblical counseling for local prostitutes and addicts. One of them was recently arrested on drug charges. The women, who was a believer, decided to change her life. She was hoping to be sentenced to drug rehab instead of jail. She asked my wife and I to pray for her to seek God’s leading in her life. She specifically wanted to know if God intended her to go to prison rather than rehab. Several people in our church prayed and all of us felt like God was going to send her to prison where He was going to use her in a mighty way. When she heard that her first response was to give up on God. She told us she would follow the wiccans instead because they seemed to be getting out of jail. Unlike Jacob and Habakkuk, she decided to let go because God was not doing what she wanted. While that was her initial response she eventually decided to hold on to God and accept His will. We are confident, that like Jacob, she will be blessed.
When you wrestle with God there can be no expectation of winning, but you shouldn’t expect to lose either. In fact, what both Jacob and Habakkuk teach us is that the only way to lose is to give up. If you hold on and accept God’s will, you will prevail because you will be able to see God work in amazing ways. And therein lies the ultimate victory. So when life becomes a challenge, go ahead and wrestle with God but be prepared to hold on until the very end because you will be in for the ride of your life.