Wrestling with God

The story from scripture I often read for strength in the midst of troubled times is the account of Jacob wrestling with God from the book of Genesis.

Jacob is struggling and feels led to spend an evening alone to try to find some degree of peace. A man, seemingly out of nowhere, comes and begins to physically wrestle with him. Jacob and the man fight with one another throughout the night until sunbreak, when it is clear neither will prevail.

We learn in the story the man wrestling with Jacob is God. God strikes Jacob in the hip, knocking it out of socket and leaving Jacob permanently marred.

Still, Jacob persists until he forces God to give him a blessing. God agrees and renames Jacob as Israel, a combination of the Hebrew words for Wrestle and God, while Jacob names the place of the struggle Peniel, meaning face of God.

I return to this story often because it holds in tension a dual reality. Life is both a blessing and a struggle, and often those two realities meet and leave us forever changed.

We often wrestle with those moments in which the call of God intersects with the difficulties of life, and figuring out a path forward is a challenge. But, in the end, the blessings of life outweigh the struggles, and God is with us each step of the way.

— The Rev. Dr. James D. McLeod Jr., First Presbyterian Church, Anniston

Choosing God’s way

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 was the first Word of God that illuminated my life journey. After reading these scriptures I asked, “Why hasn’t anyone ever told me that I can choose to walk in the blessings of God?” This story of the blessings of God changed my entire faith walk, and if you have never been told that you can choose life, then I pray it changes yours just like it did mine.

“Listen closely, I have set before you today life and death; in that I command you today to love God, to live in His ways and keep His commandments and His precepts, so that you will live and multiply, and that God will bless you in the land which you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you will not hear and obey, I declare to you today that you will perish. You will not live long in the land which you cross the Jordan to enter and possess. I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses; therefore, you shall choose life that you may live, you and your descendants by loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and holding closely to Him; for He is your good life, and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord promised to give to your fathers…”

— Beverly Mattox, Word Alive International Outreach