A remarkable story is told in Genesis 32 about one very dark night in Jacob’s life.
We read that he was in great fear and distress, feeling shaken about his future, alone, separated from his family and servants, and uncertain whether he would see his earthly possessions again. In this context we see something quite unusual: ‘So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”’ (Genesis 32:24-27)
We later read that it was God with whom Jacob was wrestling. What is this mysterious wrestling that Jacob did with God?
In his dark night of trials, Jacob’s wrestling was a process of holding on to God, of refusing to let go of His promises and of clinging to the core of all goodness in his life – God Himself. David expressed the same “wrestle” in Psalm 63, “O God you are my God, earnestly I seek you…in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water…My soul clings to you.”
This story sheds light on the purpose of trials in our lives, and tells us how we should respond in times of darkness.
When the Father wrestles with His children we know that it is not to harm them, but to tie Himself more intimately to them and to strengthen them, just as an earthly father would do. This is very clear in the Bible: “We share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17). Read also Things to Know About Hardship and Struggles.
So how do we respond to fear, distress, loneliness, loss and uncertainty about the future? The Father is inviting us to cling to Him, to not give up, to hold onto Him even if it feels that we are being flung around wildly around. We wrestle until day breaks and the Father’s blessing comes.
In refusing to give up until the dark night passed, we see two specific ways in which Jacob “clung” to God during his trial:
- He reminded himself of his history with God’s love and faithfulness, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.” (Gen 32:10)
- He reminded himself of God’s promises to him, and he reminded God of these also. “But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’ ” (Gen 32:12)
Genesis 32 was the pivotal moment in Jacob’s life and he was never the same after his wrestling with God.
If you are stumbling through a dark night of trials, know that the Father’s love surrounds and covers you. Your part is to cling to Him until His transforming work in you is complete; until daybreak, when you leave with His blessing.
In the next instalments we will look at three ways that Jacob’s trials and wrestles transformed his life and destiny.