Tag Archives: struggle

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:

Spare a Thought

broken_christmastree_b
By Produnis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
If you are celebrating this Christmas time, and why shouldn’t you?!, please spare a thought for those who aren’t or can’t…

for the person visibly struggling, and the one sat quietly in the corner;
for the one trying to make the best of it, and the one trying to pretend it isn’t happening;
for those whose pain and struggle we know of, and those who we have no idea of the burdens they carry;
for those who wish today was different and those for whom every day is the same – and not in a good way;
for those who don’t have food to eat, a roof over their head and don’t have the luxury of ‘being ready for Christmas’;
for those who have no one to buy gifts for, and those who have nothing to spare on such luxuries.

for the mourning, wishing that person was here;
for those with no answers, wondering when, or if, they will ever know;
for the scarred, and the scared, for whom today is just another day of fear;
for those for whom a change of routine is confusing and frightening;
for those who can see someone they love slipping from them;
for the chronically ill, for whom today is just another day of dealing with symptoms and managing treatment;
for those for whom today is just another day of work

for those who so want today to be different, and know it isn’t;
for those who want to join in, and can’t;
for those who wish they were somewhere else, and aren’t

And the food and the decorations and the celebrations make no difference, for today is just another day of pain, hurt, dealing with life…

Think of them and if there is anything you can do to make this Christmas different, or just hold them and remember not everyone is celebrating

 

Sorrow #Advent

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky 01

It can seem at times so hard to find any hope in the world, any glimmer of a different future, perhaps especially today, of a time when war and troubles are over, when sorrow has ended.

One thing the Old Testament show us is that Twas Ever Thus.  Humanity has always done a good job of causing trouble for one another – mistreating, making enemies, creating disaster – generally trying to prove who is bigger, stronger and making the life of the weak and vulnerable even more precarious.

Into this God spoke.  Into this God continues to speak.  The Advent message of hope is as needed today as it was when the prophets first spoke it.  God promises that this will end.

Why hasn’t he yet?  Perhaps we haven’t given him chance, allowed him to.  God is trying to stop wars and we keep starting them.  We are still intent on proving who is better, more right – and we fail to live with one another, with tensions and different opinions.  We struggle to do it over even small things, so no wonder we can’t do it over international conflict.  And when weapons get involved, there will only be one end – more hurt, more destruction, more suffering for those who didn’t start anything.

Yet still God continues to stand with us, weep with and for us, and promise an end – just as soon as we let him.  Sorrow will end.  We will be safely home.

God will lead us home and we will be safely blessed – that is our Advent hope.

What am I doing to work with him?

O Lord,
I know you weep over humanity,
you are distraught
at the things we do to one another.

You promise to bring us home
to a place of safety
and joy,
but we carry on the fighting,
discrimination,
injustice
and wonder why you aren’t doing something.

Forgive me Lord
for the part I play
in keeping anger and oppression going.

Today
and tomorrow
may I work with you
to bring an end
that we may be able
to come home to you.

The theme of the first week in Advent is The Day of the Lord.  We look forward to the coming of that day.

Zephaniah 3:14-20

(CEV)

A Song of Celebration

14 Everyone in Jerusalem and Judah,
celebrate and shout
    with all your heart!
15 Zion, your punishment is over.
The Lord has forced your enemies
    to turn and retreat.
Your Lord is King of Israel
    and stands at your side;
you don’t have to worry
    about any more troubles.

16 Jerusalem, the time is coming,
    when it will be said to you:
“Don’t be discouraged
    or grow weak from fear!
17 The Lord your God
wins victory after victory
    and is always with you.
He celebrates and sings
    because of you,
and he will refresh your life
    with his love.”

The Lord’s Promise to His People

18 The Lord has promised:
Your sorrow has ended,
    and you can celebrate.
19 I will punish those
    who mistreat you.
I will bring together the lame
    and the outcasts,
then they will be praised,
instead of despised,
    in every country on earth.
20 I will lead you home,
    and with your own eyes
you will see me bless you
    with all you once owned.
Then you will be famous
    everywhere on this earth.
I, the Lord, have spoken!

O Lord the Clouds are Gathering