The following article is a guest post from Winfree Brisley:
Being the mom of two little boys, I hope and pray my boys will not only be brothers, but best friends. We try to foster their friendship in various ways, but the way they seem to prefer to bond at this stage is not something my female mind would have devised.
For a few moments, my heart swells as I watch their huge smiles and listen to their delighted giggles. They wrestle, and it’s wonderful. Until it isn’t. Inevitably, one of them decides he’s not having fun, anymore and the other one isn’t ready to stop. The smiles turn to frowns, the giggles turn to cries, and I see one of them trying with all his might to get away while the other hangs on with a death grip. What started as wrestling with one another, has become one brother wrestling against the other.
Wrestling with the Lord
Reflecting on this recurring scene, I was struck (as I often am) by how my children’s behavior tends to mirror my interactions with the Lord. Lately, I’ve been wrestling with the Lord—wrestling in my mind and spirit to understand certain theological truths and how they play out practically in my life. And I think this is a right way to grow in relationship with the Lord.
Sometimes we wrestle with the Lord as Jacob did and say, “I will not let go unless you bless me.” We persist in pursuing the Lord and don’t give up until he has given us the wisdom, or peace, or contentment, or victory over sin we seek. We grow in relationship with the Lord when we bring him our questions, doubts, and fears and wrestle with him.
Most likely, we’ll not physically wrestle with the Lord as Jacob did—so what does our wrestling look like? We wrestle with him through prayer, talking to him about questions and concerns. We wrestle with him in his Word, searching its pages for truth that speaks to our situation, meditating on relevant passages, and memorizing verses that encourage or convict us. We wrestle with him through the wise counsel of others. As we hear the preached Word, read books and articles, and pursue intentional conversations, the Spirit speaks through godly people giving us truth and instruction to process and apply.
Wrestling against the Lord
There are many ways we can wrestle with God, but we want to avoid wrestling against him or not wrestling at all. Sometimes, we can be like my sons and decide we don’t like how things are going anymore, so we start struggling against God, looking for a way out.
Maybe he allows us to suffer. And instead of wrestling with him to understand how he can both love us and bring hardship into our lives, we decide he must not be loving, and we push him away. Maybe the truth of his Word puts us at odds with our family, friends, or co-workers. So instead of wrestling with him to find the strength to stand for truth when it may cost us, we wrestle against the authority of his Word, deciding it must not really mean what it says. Maybe following him hasn’t taken our lives in the direction we wanted regarding work or family. So instead of wrestling with him to come to a point of trusting his plans and submitting to his will, we wrestle against him, deciding we know better and putting our own plans in motion.
Not Wrestling at All
Other times we make the mistake of not wrestling at all. Consider Eve. She knew what God had told her and quoted it to the serpent: “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die” (Gen. 3:3). But when the serpent suggested an alternative—“You will not surely die”—notice what Eve did (and what she didn’t do). She accepted the fruit, ate it, and sinned. But she failed to go back to the Lord and try to make sense of the conflicting information she received. She didn’t wrestle. How different the scene might have been had she gone to the Lord and sought his counsel to make sense of this conflicting information.
So why don’t we wrestle with the Lord? On some level, I think we know it will cost us. Jacob limped away from his wrestling match with the Lord because his hip was injured. While it may not cost us physically, wrestling with the Lord may cost us time and energy. It may cost us the approval of others. It may cost us our sense of independence and control. It may cost us a relationship or habit we enjoy. It may cost us a career or lifestyle we’ve worked hard to build.
But what’s the alternative? Not wrestling may very well lead us to sin, as it did for Eve. And if we don’t wrestle we’ll likely miss out on the blessing of the Lord. Jacob wrestled with the Lord, and the Lord blessed him for it.
Blessing through Wrestling
When my boys wrestle, I don’t intervene as long as they are wrestling with each other. Sure, it may not be the safest way for them to bond. They’ve each gotten a bump and bruise here or there, but wrestling is a way they enjoy one another and find the blessing of brotherhood.
It reminds me of Susan’s reservations about meeting Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Upon realizing she would be meeting a lion, she wanted to know if he was safe. Mr. Beaver famously replied, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Blessing comes through wrestling. And when we wrestle with the Lord we may not find him to be safe, but we’ll find him to be good.
Winfree Brisley is a wife and mom who enjoys sharing her love of Scripture through writing and teaching other women. She lives with her husband and sons in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they are members of Uptown Church (PCA).