Category Archives: life

Wrestling

This is the script of my Going Deeper With God daily devotions for today. You can watch the video here if you prefer.

The Readings are Psalm 23 and Genesis 32:22-32

Jacob Wrestles at Peniel

22 That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River. 23 After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, 24 but he stayed behind, alone.

Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. 26 The man said, “Let me go; daylight is coming.”

“I won’t, unless you bless me,” Jacob answered.

27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.”

29 Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”

But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob.

30 Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel.31 The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Even today the descendants of Israel do not eat the muscle which is on the hip joint, because it was on this muscle that Jacob was hit.

When I was a girl, our Saturday tea times were spent watching tv, eating bread and dripping and watching the wrestling on ITV. Think Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus.  That was how life was, certainly in our corner of the world in the 1970s – we knew how to live!!

In those wrestling matches there was a lot of play acting, I suspect a lot of throwing the matches and it was more about the entertainment.

Today’s readings are of real struggles and a real wrestling with God.  Particularly as we hear Jacob’s story.  We’ve been following that story through the readings and now we come to the point of his wrestling with God.

This is Jacob the trickster.  He has misled and taken advantage of his brother, his father and his uncle.  Perhaps he is feeling he is about to get his comeuppance…

Jacob has taken his wives, servants, children and all his worldly possessions across the river.  But for now he is alone – Just him and God – and a struggle ensues.

Jacob comes out of the encounter limping.  He has struggled with God and he bears the marks of his encounter.

Are we up for wrestling with God?  Or would we rather have everything simple and straightforward – no struggle required?  I think faith worth having is a faith we’ve struggled with.  Until we have wrestled with what it’s all about and what it means to us, it remains an inherited faith, not one that will stand up under pressure.  It is very easy to trot out trite platitudes, but until we have wrestled we do not know if they stand up or not.

It’s unlikely that we will come away from a true struggle with God unmarked.  It is in the struggles that we are changed, that we are stretched, in the facing up to the realities of our lives. There is nothing wrong with wrestling with God, having an honest conversation, admitting our fears, where we are going…

Don’t be afraid of the struggle, for in that we will be formed.  Jacob came away not just with a dislocated hip, but also with a new name.  It was at that point he became Israel – and the rest, as they say, is history.  But without his willingness to wrestle with God – who knows.

Am I willing to struggle with God?  To wrestle over who is in charge?  How God will bless me?  What I need to let go of?  What I ought to be doing?  To let God touch me, challenge me, humble me and equip me?  Will I receive his blessing, his new name, his future?

As I reflect on bible passages, I like to put myself in the story and hear the voice of the characters.  So here is my voice in this.

Wrestling,
still grappling,
trying to gain the upper hand.

Searching,
seeking,
longing,
to be.

Still yearning
for that blessing,
not the stolen one,
but God’s blessing
on me
and my life.

And now you come,
I am marked,
forever,
by our struggle;
from now on
I am changed.

You call me by a new name,
a new purpose
a new me.

I have met God,
we have struggled,
I am renewed
and I am alive.

Struggling,
I wrestle with you Lord.

I search
and I seek,
I long for you to touch me,
to change me
to make me new,
in you.


I come to you,
knowing that answers are not always easy,
faith is not always easily come by,
that sometimes I need to wrestle
– with my conscience,
my selfishness,
my manipulative ways,
my wants
and even with you.

In the struggle Lord,
re-form me,
renew me,
rename me,
re-purpose me
and reassure me.

Bless me Lord
I pray.
Bless each one of us.
Meet us in our struggle,
touch us,
renew us
and may we know we are alive in you.

My hymn suggestion for today is O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,  such a beautiful hymn that ties together both Psalm 23 and Jacob’s struggles. It means so much to me of being able to trace God’s rainbow through the rain and the God whose love never lets us go, whatever the struggle. And this is a beautiful rendition of it:

Keeping Your Eyes Fixed

This is the text of my Going Deeper Daily Devotions for today:

Todays reading is Hebrews 12:1-24, but I am only going to read the first few verses, I will leave you to read the rest yourself. 

 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

When I was learning to drive, the one best pearls of wisdom that the wonderful Llewelyn imparted to me is “look at where you want to go”.  Keep your eyes focussed on the road ahead at where you are journeying to. 

Don’t look at the front of the bonnet, you are not prepared for what is ahead, and especially don’t start admiring the scenery to the left or right – or that is where you will end up heading.

It turns out, that is not only useful advice for driving, but also for faith.  I would dare to suggest it is also good advice for a pandemic.

We are running a race, Hebrews tells us.  I sincerely hope it is not a physical running race, or I don’t stand a chance!  If I can expand the metaphor further, it is not a sprint, but a marathon.  It is not about a short sharp burst of energy, but about the long game.  The race that lies before us is probably long and winding, with unexpected twists and turn – more like a steeplechase with various different obstacles! – but no so systematically placed.  We will all run it in our own way, with our own style.  But the writer of Hebrews tells us to run, always keeping our eyes on Jesus.  He is where we are going, he is the reason for the journey, it is on him we depend.  Take our eyes off him and we will become distracted, drop focus, lose momentum in our step, become confused about where we were going, what the goal actually was, or just head off in the wrong direction all together.

With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will not be distracted by the things on the periphery – those things that scare us, confuse us, take out focus, our interest, or just take us from the road and land us in a ditch.

Jesus should be our focus, the way, the guide.  With our eyes on Jesus, we are not avoiding the here and now, not just looking to the future, but thinking like Jesus each step of the way.

It seems very trite to ask,

‘what would Jesus do?’

but actually it can be a great question.  We will only reach the end if each step works. As we plough on with our natural reactions, it can be a great question to pull us up in any situation – never mind what I feel, what my knee jerk reaction might be, what would Jesus be doing in this situation? How is my vision of him going to effect what I do here, now?

When I finish this race, will I be able to look Jesus in the eye?

The passage finishes with these words:

22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, with its thousands of angels. 23 You have come to the joyful gathering of God’s first-born, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, who is the judge of all people, and to the spirits of good people made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, who arranged the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that promises much better things than does the blood of Abel.

That is race’s end – The city of the living God.  To the joyful gathering of God’s people.  To Jesus.

Each day, may that be our focus.

Lord
you call us to run this race of life.

We want to run it always with you,
always with our eyes fixed on you
and not distracted
by things that do not matter.

And so each day
may we look to you
and live
in the way that you would.

May God bless us this day in our journey
and every day.
May we know his presence.
Amen

Most Important of All

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I wanted to know
what The Most Important thing was,
which of all God’s words
was the greatest?
What it was most crucial to follow.

Jesus summed it all up in two phrases for me,
Love God
with everything you have got
and love your neighbour
as yourself.

So ‘all’ I have got to do
is love God,
my neighbour
and myself.

It sounds so easy put like that,
I could not disagree.

But actually,
when you think about it,
that is the whole world,
it encapsulates everyone.

Love of God is at the root,
in that is the love for the rest.
If my focus is on loving God,
love for everyone else
should flow through that.

If I can love myself,
in the knowledge
of the depths of God’s love for me,
I should be able to dwell in that love,
soak in it,
so that love overflows in me
onto all those around me.

All bound together
in a circle of love,
mutual support
and fellowship.

Lord,
may I learn to truly love you,
that you are
the most important thing
in my life,
and I may give you
all that I am.

I come
to let you love me.
To stay here,
as your arms stretch out
and hold me tight
– comforting,
healing,
warming,
letting me know
that I am known
and loved.

May I allow your love to sink deep into me.
And from there,
may I be at the point
of being able to love others,
from the security of knowing what I mean to you.

The Greatest Commandment

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

The Question about David’s Son

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
   until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Matthew 22: 34-46