Wrestling with God


Morgan’s Story: When I applied to college, I wanted to pursue a theology or communications degree, but those plans failed the practicality test. Instead, I chose education for its reliable career path and relegated theology to a minor. Like Jacob in Genesis, I was wrestling with God. Round One: I win.

First semester, I loved my elective Theology in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). At the end of that semester, my professor took me aside to say I needed to consider studying theology and writing at a graduate level. My stomach flipped, but caution pinned down my thrill. Immediately I shoved that dream aside. Too unstable. Round Two: Morgan wins.

Four years later, I completed my final undergrad presentation—a twenty-minute lecture on a dead theologian. Before I slipped out of class, my professor from Theology in the Pentateuch grabbed my shoulder and asked, “Have you applied to seminary yet?”

For a moment, thrill overtook caution—but only a moment. I loved the thought of seminary, but could I make it? Could I pay for it? More than that, I craved stability. What do you do with a theology degree?

Instead, I opted for a job as a fourth-grade teacher in a private Christian school. It seemed stable. It offered control. And ministering to students? A great fit. But, in essence, I told God, “While I love the things you’ve laid on my heart, I’ve gained this secure position that provides comfort. My plan, not Yours, lays out the parameters for Your blessing.” Round Three, I win again.

My first year of teaching was tough. I wanted to quit. And I don’t quit. I loved my classroom full of students, but they were unruly and behind, having just survived their entire 3rd grade year with substitute teachers. I coped with several difficult parents of students while lacking the support of the administration, who—worst of all—expected me to back a stifling legalism. Drought characterized my relationship with God, and I struggled even to find a church. I poured myself out while sometimes others snatched even more of me without my permission.

That school year broke me. I had sought stability, but God showed me He was the only one who could be my Rock. By January, I had tapped out.

“God, I choose You,” I said. “I will cling to You.” I limped through the remainder of the school year and applied to seminary, gladly surrendering my parameters for God’s blessing to His “risky” path. Final round, God wins.

In Genesis 32, God had Jacob right where He wanted him. All Jacob’s blessings had waded across the river, hidden from his sight, removed from his grasp. And Jacob was alone. So far he had manipulated every moving piece to best guard his blessings, but now he risked losing everything to his brother Esau. He waited in the darkness until God took him by surprise.

A mysterious man showed up and wrestled with Jacob until dawn. Their sweat mingled with dirt as they fought for the advantage. Jacob—whose name meant heel-grasper—had already practiced seizing opportunities for the upper hand. But this opponent was unlike any other.

When the wrestling match was over, Jacob learned he had wrestled against God Himself. Though God possessed the power to break Jacob all along, He matched Jacob’s strength, allowing him to wear himself out. Then God intervened, dislocating Jacob’s hip.

Jacob had wrestled with men all his life, but God brought him to the end of himself that night. Maybe that hip plagued him for the rest of his life, reminding him of his lack of stability apart from God.

I was like Jacob during that year of wrestling as I sought to control how God would bless me. I imagine God had a message for Jacob—and for me—that went something like this: Again and again, I tried to bless you, but you refused to let me handle the details. You kept insisting on your way. So, I’ll allow you to wear yourself out a little while longer, and then I’ll need to break you so you’ll cling to me.

During that terrible school year, I needed to receive the arms already embracing me. God longs to bless you too. Even when He breaks you, you are wrapped up in His gracious arms. Yield to His strength and cling to the Good Wrestler, the Giver of all things.


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