When I became a Christian, the hardest thing for me was surrender – surrendering my life, my heart, my dreams, everything. God has a sense of humour because He has made me fiercely independent and put a control streak in me, yet He regularly asks me to hand over control to Him, and that has been hard for me. Very hard. So when God started asking me to completely depend on Him, it was foreign ground and I found myself wrestling with God instead of being still before Him. I found myself handing things over, only to try and wrestle them back from God. I hand it over, then try to wrestle it back. Hand it over, wrestle it back. I have spent many a night wrestling with God over things and to be honest, I felt bad about it for a while and felt like I wasn’t being a proper Christian, but then I stumbled across Jacob in the Old Testament and found myself feeling a little better.
In Genesis 32:22-31 we read about Jacob wrestling with God:
“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. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 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. 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.” Jacob said, “please tell me your name.” But he replied, “why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “it is because I saw god face to face, and yet my life was spared.”. The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.”
When I read about Jacob, I found myself identifying with his situation. As I said, I’ve wrestled with God often and at times have kept wrestling when I should have thrown in the towel long ago (that would be that stubbornness that I mentioned earlier.) But there were a couple of things that really stood out for me when reading Jacob’s encounter. Firstly, Jacob was stubborn. As in, really stubborn. As in, even an out of joint hip didn’t stop him from wrestling with God. I have been, on many on occasion, called a stubborn mule, and with good reason; I can be exceptionally stubborn and when I dig my heels in on something, it takes a lot to shift me. Which can be good and bad. Good in some instances, bad in others, especially when it comes to being stubborn with God because as much as I like to think I know better, to date, God’s ways and plans have always better than mine. But it’s God’s response to Jacob’s stubbornness that really intrigues me.
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. (Gen 32:25)
While this may look like Jacob was too powerful for God so God had to poke his hip to stop him, it is the complete opposite. God poked Jacob’s hip to protect Him; He knew that Jacob would keep going and going and it would eventually end badly for him, so to protect him, God pokes his hip to slow him down and prevent him getting hurt even more. He needed to slow him down. He needed to get him to a place where he could see him face to face. Where Jacob could focus on God’s face and hear God’s voice because the thing is, it’s only when we stop and look at God face to face, when we slow down and come face to face with Jesus, that our lives are changed.
God wants us to sit face to face with our Saviour.
God will slow us down, and occasionally stop us completely, to protect us from ourselves. He wants us to be with Him face to face, without distraction, so that we can properly hear His voice. So that we can walk in the ways He wants us to, not the ways we want to, because we can be stubborn and cause ourselves harm without realising it. And it’s only after we are face to face with Jesus that we are changed.
‘the sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.’ (Gen 32:31)
Jacob called the place he wrestled with God Peniel and Peniel means face of God. Amid his wrestling, when God slowed him down, Jacob saw the face of God. Jacob walked away with a limp that stayed with him because he had been touched by God. And when God touches our lives, we are forever changed. We are never the same. It is in those moments of intimacy with God, when we are before Him, when our heart is stilled on Him and our eyes are fixed on Him, when we are looking Him face on, that He will touch us and change us forever.
What are we wrestling with God about today? What do we still need to surrender? Maybe today, we will allow God to slow us down, to stop us so that we can look Him in the eye. Maybe today, as we surrender over whatever it is we’re wrestling, God will touch ‘our hip’ and change us. Maybe today, we will see His face and be ever changed into the likeness of Jesus. Whatever it is you may be wrestling God for, I pray that you will see His face and be forever changed.