What I learned from a wrestling match.
This week, The Gospel Project for Kids will tackle one of the stranger stories found in the Bible. In this story, Jacob wrestles with a man—who is actually God—and wins (sort of).
Obviously, for God to be out-wrestled by Jacob would require a certain amount of willful restraint on God’s part. We see that Jacob would have been otherwise outmatched when God cripples Jacob with a single touch. But even after God flexed a bit to show Jacob what He could do if He wanted to, Jacob refused to release the Man with whom he wrestled.
“Not until you bless me!” was Jacob’s response when God told him to let go.
What in the world are we to make of this passage?
What God revealed to me through this passage is neither the only nor the best application, but it was exactly what I needed from the Lord at the time. Before I state this application, allow me to fill in some back story.
I’m new to the Gospel Project for Kids team, and figuring out this job is stressful, to say the least. I love being a part of this movement towards gospel-centered curriculum, and I cannot imagine a more loving and supportive team to work with; but, I often feel in over my head. In the midst of all the pressing tasks and impending deadlines, it’s really easy to think that I am too busy for a quiet time. Thus, I’ve been in a relatively “dry patch” in my spiritual walk for about a month. I allowed myself to believe the lie that my work provides sufficient Scripture intake, and it was an extreme detriment to my soul.
When God, as merciful and gracious as ever, reminded me what I was lacking, I cracked open my Bible and stared at it blankly. If you can imagine the difficulty of riding uphill on a bike with an old, rusted chain, you’ve about figured out how my brain felt trying to process God’s Word. I hate to admit it, but I read Genesis 32:24–32 and simply thought, “Oh, yeah. This is the story of how God sucker punched Jacob to win a fight.”
Please note that the ascription of any such negative actions to our righteous God is only included to emphasize the poor state of mind I was in. Thankfully, He is good to me even when I am unable to comprehend Him. So good, in fact, that He showed me something I’d never noticed before in this text. God blesses Jacob, in a way, because of his tenacity.
This is not to say that if we just buckle down and try our best, we’ll eventually earn good things from God. No, that is contrary to the beautiful truth of the gospel. What I mean by this is that God, in His sovereignty, was using Jacob’s stubborn unwillingness to let go to teach me, thousands of years later, to cling desperately to God.
In the moments before God whispered to me through scripture, the temptation to give up, close my Bible, and write I don’t know what this passage means as my application point almost won out in my heart. I’ve done that before when I feel stumped by God’s word. But, this time I decided to read it again. Ask God to speak to me again. Pray for wisdom to understand again. I refused to give up, and realized that all along it was God refusing to give up on me.
If you are serving in the church, especially trying to teach the gospel to the next generation, there will be forces opposing you. We’re up against what Paul calls “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” There’s no way to avoid a struggle. Would you rather struggle to understand God’s Word, or struggle to live life without it?
So, here is my encouragement to you all as you prepare for each Sunday. Be in the Word and don’t give up on it. It is not possible to have too much Bible in your life. If you refuse to let go of it, God will bless you for your tenacity. I can’t say that I’ve never felt like a quiet time was unfruitful, but I can say that an “unfruitful” quiet time is a wonderful thing compared to cutting it from your day completely. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble.
Sam O’Neil is a Content Editor for The Gospel Project for Kids. Prior to working at LifeWay, he worked as a Family Resources Resident for The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. He now lives with his wife and dog in Nashville, TN and serves in the children’s ministry at Redemption City Church in Franklin, TN.