Wrestling With God

The Bible speaks of many individuals who wrestle with God as they struggle. Sometimes these struggles are due to the consequences of their sin. Other times the struggle is with the sovereign will of God as they try to cope, not knowing the next step, but still trying to trust God anyway. This healthy tension is seen throughout the Word of God. Here are a few examples to show how God compassionately reasons with those in His care, growing them patiently according to His will.

In the book of Job, God says in 38:1,
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’”
The book of Job shows a man who is righteous by faith. Yet, through the permission of God, Satan strikes down aspects of Job’s life: his family, his wealth, his provisions, and parts of his health.  His own wife tells Job to curse God and die. After all this, he has to endure three friends who ultimately give well intentioned, but bad advice. God answers over 4 chapters, Job, what do you know of how I run the universe? How can you know how everything fits into my plan? 
In chapter 42, Job responds in awe as he accepts how little he knows compared to God. God then responds to Job’s three friends, declaring his burning anger against them in 42:7, following up with a restoration of Job’s fortune and then some in 42:10.

Around the time of Job, another couple named Abraham and Sarah had received a promise from the LORD that Sarah would no longer be barren but would be blessed with a son and she shall become nations (Gen. 17:15-21). It is amazing how many times Abraham struggled as he heard God speak promises to Him. Abraham is such a relatable man, a sinning saint of God, saved by righteous of faith founded in God’s works, not his own.

Sarah laughed at the promise of Isaac and struggled to believe that she could be used in such a way (Gen. 18:10-15). Abraham advocated to the LORD for potential righteous in Sodom (Gen. 18:22-33). On many other occasions,  Abraham’s story is filled with amazing struggles as he follows the will of God.

At a later time, one of Jacob’s wives named Leah was hated by Jacob, so God opened her womb and closed her sister Rachel’s womb. Leah struggled with Jacob’s favoritism, and it clearly overflows into her spirituality. She names her children according to those struggles and how the LORD fits into them according to her perspective.

Jacob himself appears to have physically wrestled with God because he received a physical lifelong injury. This wrestling with God starts with the command to return to the land of his fathers and his kindred, and that the LORD would be with him (Gen. 31:3). As Jacob approached his homeland, Esau came to see him with a massive following. Jacob consistently sent gifts and messengers ahead of himself toward Esau, but the night before God wrestles with Jacob until morning. Jacob’s anxiety from his past mistakes and sin was colliding with his current desire to obey God and repent in his remorse.

One final example to share is from King David during the sickness of his baby. The prophet Nathan rebuked David for his sin against God when David impregnated his friend’s wife, sent his friend off to die, and then covered it up (2 Sam. 12). After his rebuke, King David lay on the floor, fasting and praying as he sought after God. For seven days this went on in this manner until his child died as promised. David would learn of this death through his servants and go on to say one of the most profound accepting statements of consequences,
“Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed
himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD
and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”  He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” 
-2 Sam. 12:20-23
Though there are many more in the Word of God, these occasions of wrestling with God are not exclusive to the pages of Scripture. Every person will spiritually wrestle with God as they go through life following Him. It is important for each of us to recognize this. We are called to grow in Him… to imitate Christ and be refined through the process of sanctification. There will be many struggles and we must not neglect their importance as the Spirit guides us.

I have wrestled with God many times since I became a follower of Jesus Christ. I remember my first notable wrestling match was when I was commanded by my pastor to read through the New Testament in 21 days and report back to him each day what I was learning and how I came to the conclusions I had. God’s regenerative power breathed new life into me by the time I got to John 21, but shortly after I encountered my first crisis of faith in Romans 9.

Days after becoming a follower of Jesus, I encountered. God’s sovereign choice to save some, while passing over others. I remember coming to my pastor in tears and a restless night of chewing on the first several chapters of Romans. I remember crying out to God to help me understand deeper, to give me clarity and comfort. It was then I learned of the concepts behind Calvinism vs. Arminianism, despite never before hearing of this debate or their theological points. As a new follower, I could not escape what was clearly tensioned in Scripture and I had to wrestle with God in my desperate search for truth.

We will all wrestle with God at one point or another. Knowing this, you must not neglect these opportunities or run from them. You need to stand firm and seek truth. If I had read God’s Word, glazing over passages that conflicted with my worldview, or tried to explain them away, or sought a church that fit my worldview, I would not have grown as much. When you struggle, you need to seek truth not comfort. You need to seek God's way. How do we know God's way?

There is a helpful Confession of Faith called the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which is a document that summarizes Christian doctrine into 107 questions and answers with their Scripture proofs. This catechism is regarded as one of the easiest to memorize, because of its concise accuracy. It has had a profound influence on Church history and is still impactful to this day. It points us to God's way of understanding Him, God and ourselves.

In the first three Q&A we see that our chief purpose as individuals and as mankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We know how to appropriately glorify and enjoy Him because of His Word found in the Old and New Testaments. We then discover that the purpose of Scripture is succinctly summarized by showing us what man is to believe about God, as well as the duties God requires of man.

For the purpose of discussion today, that means you should seek to glorify God and enjoy him even in your struggles. When you seek truth in those struggles, go to the Word of God above all else. Wrestle directly with God in His word and in constant prayer with Him. Glorify God and enjoy Him even when the direction of your life doesn’t make sense.

For the Glory of God,
Derek Cozine

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