People Who Say Such Things: Show Us the Struggle Is Real

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February 15, 2020

Genesis 32:22-28 (NIV)

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 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. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 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.”

CONSIDER THIS

Struggle. 

It is a synonym for life. It means to wrestle, contend with, persevere, and even to agonize.

Jacob struggled. His mother experienced the struggle as he and Esau wrestled in her womb. Jacob came out of the womb grasping his brother’s heel. He struggled to gain advantage over Esau the whole way through, trading for his birthright and deceiving for his blessing. He struggled to escape Esau’s wrath. He struggled with Laban, his father-in-law, laboring for seven years to get the bride of his choice, Rachel, only to be deceived and get Leah instead. He struggled another seven years of hard labor to get Rachel. He struggled another six years, having his wages lowered ten times despite growing Laban’s possessions. He struggled to escape Laban’s hold on him. He escaped this stronghold only to learn of an immanent and inevitable confrontation with his brother, Esau. Now, on the eve of this dreadful date with Esau, Jacob finds himself in an epic struggle with God.  

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 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. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

Then Jacob says this:

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

People who say such things show us how struggle becomes blessing. 

28 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.”

We all struggle. The big question we must all deal with is whether we will let go or not. How does a person let go? Most often it’s not super intentional. They just kind of check out. With all the channels of entertainment available to us and the endless streams of social media feeds it is easy to become professionally distracted. Blaise Pascal said in his Penses, “We run heedlessly into the abyss, after putting something in front of us to stop us from seeing it.”

Another way we let go is through anesthetizing ourselves to the pain of our struggles. The consumption of alcohol, which I don’t see as a sin in and of itself, has arisen to the level of a sport with the burgeoning craft beer, bourbon, and wine industrial complex. Marijuana in every form under the sun is rolling like a wave, state by state, across the country. People are checking out en masse. We desperately want to escape the arduous struggle—and understandably so. Am I speaking to you? Because I know I am speaking to myself. 

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

My all time favorite teacher, Oswald Chambers, writes, “You must be willing to be placed on the altar and go through the fire; willing to experience what the altar represents— burning, purification, and separation for only one purpose—the elimination of every desire and affection not grounded in or directed toward God.” It resonates deeply with yesterday’s Daily Text doesn’t it? 

A long time close friend wrote me the other day, noting she had been praying for me and heard what she sensed was a word from the Lord for me. She risked sharing it with me, so I will risk sharing it with you.  

“I don’t want from him but for him. The pain is brutal – surgery with no anesthesia; no swig of whiskey, no bullet to bite – just searing white hot separation of marrow from bone, soul, and spirit – exposing. I actually know what I’m doing. The wholly holy unshakable will remain. No cancerous margins will remain. I am not closing the surgery until it’s finished.”

This resonated deeply with me in my own season of ongoing struggle. I risk sharing it because sometimes these kinds of words have a wider berth. My sense is it may be for others in my circle, including some who are reading. I risk sharing it also as an invitation for those who sense a burden to pray for me. 

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

To struggle with God and people is the norm, not the exception. Will we let go or hold on? There is always a blessing for those who will not let go.  

28 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.”

And the blessing most often leaves a lasting scar, memorializing the struggle as a mark of glory. Jacob’s blessing came with a limp. As the saying go, be wary of trusting leaders who do not limp. 

 There’s a fitting word from the Apostle Paul with which we will close today:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

People who say such things show us that holding on to God is hard and yet is enough in the struggles of life. He will do the rest.

 THE PRAYER

Father, I want to be a person who says such things. I come before you with my struggles; all of them, and yet I want to identify the deepest one of all—the struggle to hold on to you; to not let go. Your Spirit is willing and yet I get tired and weary. I need more of you, Lord, and I know this means I must surrender more of me. Let the struggles in my life become the altar of your deeper work in my soul. Save me from thin distractions, from escaping into worthless things, from numbing my pain with my anesthesia of choice. I want the blessing, Jesus, which I know is you and all you bring. Come Holy Spirit, and train me be such a person of faith. I pray in Jesus name, Amen. 

THE QUESTION

Have you learned to bring your struggle to God? Are you ready to let go or will you keep holding on until the blessing comes? Where is today’s reading encouraging you? Challenging you?   

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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