February 02, 2009

Struggling Grace

Genesis 32:22-32

“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God …”
Genesis 32:28


Jacob, on the eve of meeting his estranged brother Esau, wrestled with a mysterious figure who was either God or an angel of God (see Hosea 12:4). For his efforts Jacob received a disjointed hip and a new name—Israel, meaning “he struggles with God.” Jacob’s descendants eventually became known as the nation of Israel, and they distinguished people from all other nations by calling them Gentiles. In Christ, however, all God’s people are “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Gentiles are now “heirs together with Israel” (Ephesians 3:6).

We share Jacob’s new name as we also struggle with God. But in your struggles, take heart! Every God-believer is a God-struggler. Struggling with God is not a sign of unbelief or weak faith. It is a sign of honest—and even strong—faith. Those who have no faith have no need to struggle with God. But all who have faith struggle with God—sometimes with great ferocity, other times with lesser intensity.

Parents choose names that they like for their children. So does God. Evidently he likes us to struggle with him. Struggling with God shows that we take him seriously. It is God’s grace that allows us and even invites us to struggle with him. Struggling grace may even prompt us at times to quote the first Israel: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

God of all grace, help us to see that our struggles with you are a sign of healthy, honest faith. Be with us as we struggle, and strengthen our faith in you, we pray. Amen.

About the author — Dale Vander Veen

Dale Vander Veen is a retired Christian Reformed pastor who with his wife, Edith, has ministered in California, Washington, and Michigan. They have three married children and six grandchildren. He currently writes a daily e-mail series of devotions.

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