No matter how much I struggled, there was no relief. I could not win the fight. At the time, none of it made any sense. Who or what was this enemy anyway? All I saw was wave after wave crashing upon me. I fought and fought but to no avail. At first, I was resolved to win, but the battle continued, the night was long, and my strength was spent.
It was also lonely. No matter how many people came to encourage me and let me know they were concerned, they could not take this burden from me. When you face a dark time like this, you do everything you can to be as light of a load as possible on your loved ones. Even though they carry some of the weight, there is a portion of it that you always have to bear alone.
I continued to fight, but the battle seemed unending. I fought to subdue it until it broke me. Its accuracy was so perfect that it struck right where I thought I was strong. My strength was conquered, and I was no longer able to contend, but in my brokenness, something happened. I recognized the hand that was heavy upon me.
Just like the story of Jacob wrestling with God, we can sometimes be left alone for a long night of combat, and, like Jacob, we often fail to see the complete picture. Some say that through his persistence, Jacob prevailed and was blessed. This view is why we often see it as a picture of our need to prevail in prayer, and I believe that is a truth we can draw from this time in Jacob’s life. However, I believe there is something more.
This night of wrestling is not primarily about Jacob getting something out of God. This contest is about God getting something out of Jacob. Remember, Jacob did not go looking for the struggle. God came to Him, and for a while, Jacob had no idea what was going on. Here is the point we often miss. During the fight, God caused Jacob to undergo a complete reversal. Jacob went from striving against God to clinging to Him, and that is where he received the blessing.
When dark providences hit our life, we often fight and struggle in our own strength against the powers that confront us, but once in a while, through the sovereignty of God, we are shown our weakness, and we find ourselves broken. For the believer, it is during those moments that we stop striving against God and start clinging to Him because we finally realize our strength is nothing, and learn he is our only hope.
A similar reversal happened when we came to know the Lord. The conviction of sin began to lay heavy upon us, and we did everything in our power to resist it. We tried leaning on our morality, philosophies, and the suppression of our guilt but the heavy hand of God upon our sinfulness was more than we could handle. At that moment, we turned to our pursuer and found a nail-pierced hand ready to bless us. Just like Jacob, our names were changed from deceiver to Israel: Prince of God. The Lord came to us, fought against our sinfulness and self-reliance, and then delivered us.
I am not sure what hardships you might be suffering right now, but if you see yourself clinging more to Jesus because of it, God is blessing you. After we face a time like this, we are changed. Jacob’s life was changed forever when God touched his hip and put it out of joint. That was the moment his strength failed, and he realized who he was fighting. Because of that encounter, Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life, but he walked in the strength of the Lord.
Some may have looked at Jacob and mockingly asked, “Is this the mighty man of God I have heard about? He is hobbling.” Likewise, because of some of the battles you have faced, you may have disfigurements that are still evident to the world, and some may ridicule you for them. However, if what caused those scars in your life caused you to walk closer with Jesus, those who know your Savior will recognize them, not as flaws, but as the fingerprints of our gracious God.
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. – Genesis 32:30-31