Genesis 32:22-32 (Click here to read)
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Not many people know this, but when I was 14 years old I was on the wrestling team at my school. I've always been petite, so you can imagine how comical it must have been to have this short stack with skinny arms trying to perform a half Nelson on someone 20lbs heavier than me. I wasn't very good... at all. I never won a single match!
I may never be known for my wrestling skills, but one person who wrestled valiantly is a man named Jacob, later given the name Israel. After many years of being away from his hometown, Jacob prepares to return to Canaan and make peace with his brother Esau whom he had tricked out of his birthright many years ago. The night before the meeting, Jacob was alone and afraid of what Esau may do to him and his family. That night he met a man (whom most believe was either an angel or "the member of the Godhead who became the Son") and wrestled with him until morning. He wouldn't let this man go until he got a blessing! Finally, the man touched his hip and threw it out of its socket. His limp would forever be a reminder of this night.
That morning God gave Jacob a new name. His old name meant “deceiver,” but now he is named Israel, "because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (Genesis 32:28). “Israel” became the name of God's chosen people.
It's noteworthy that the name God chose for His people came from a wrestling match. Wrestling is one of the physically closest activities in which we can engage with another human. When it comes to wrestling with our doubts and questions we can feel that we can't go to God, but that's exactly where He wants us to go! We can allow God to iron out the wrinkles of our faith as He "who works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13, NIV)
God is not afraid of our questions and doubts. He knows we are finite beings attempting to understand an infinite God. Who better to run to than the all-knowing God who loves us? As we spend time in prayer and His Word, wrestling with our questions, we inevitably get closer to Him.
REFLECTION: Recall a question you wrestled with God about in the past. How did that wrestling strengthen your relationship with Him?