February 15, 2011


Genesis 32:30-32

Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Genesis 32:30


Why would God wrestle with Jacob? Couldn’t he simply have talked with him?

You can’t wrestle with just anyone. Unless you’re pretty familiar with someone, wrestling can create an awkward situation.

In high school our oldest son, John, had a friend who looked like he could have been his twin: the same build and walk, the same long curly blond hair. At a church event someone snuck up behind this friend, expecting to give John a good scare. He grabbed the teen and tackled him to the ground—only to discover that he’d just blind- sided a total stranger. Despite effusive apologies, the situation remained awkward. You’re just not supposed to get that close to people you don’t know well.

Wrestling requires closeness. Maybe that gives us a clue as to why God would wrestle with Jacob. And wrestling usually doesn’t feel good. After all, it’s fighting, not embracing. When God wrestles with us, we’re likely to view it as more of a fight than a comforting hug.

In some ways, we all have to wrestle with God. He doesn’t change us from a distance. As with Jacob, God gets close enough so he can break us, and make us whole.

But unlike having to say “Uncle” when we surrender, as backyard wrestlers are often forced to do, we can take comfort and strength in calling God “Father.”

Father God, help us see that even though struggling with you is painful, you have our ultimate good in mind. Amen.

About the author — Ron Vanderwell

Ron Vanderwell recently became the senior pastor of New Life Church in New Lenox, Illinois. He has been a pastor for 22 years, serving as a church planter for the previous 12 years at The Gathering in Sacramento, California, and before that as a pastor in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ron and his wife, Deb, have three sons: John, Adam, and Jake. Ron shares more of his reflections on “squinting” for God in his blog at www.squintforgod.com.

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