Genesis 32:24-26 | 1 Peter 5:6-7 | Matthew 5:45

“And in this corner…”

If you are going to wrestle someone, you want to pick someone close to your own size, right? Then what’s all this about wrestling with God?

First, let’s look at the best-known case of God-wrestling in the Good Book: Jacob’s all-night grudge match with The Man himself.

This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

(Genesis 32:24-26 NLT)

We soon learn that “the man” Jacob wrestled was God. Talk about a mismatch! Apparently, though, God went easy on Jacob and even gave him his blessing. He changed Jacob’s name–which means “holds the heel” or “follower” and even “trickster” (Get it? ‘Pulling my leg’)–to Israel, which means “has wrestled with God.”

Why did God give his blessing to this man who wrestled him all night? And right after dislocating his hip!

No matter how hard we struggle against God, we cannot hurt him. He is not threatened by our anger or frustration with him. Anyone who wrestles with God ultimately ends up bowing before him. If you believe God loves you, this can help you to trust in his strength not to hurt you, but to carry you through hard times.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

(1 Peter 5:6-7 NLT)

If there is something in your life that is causing you to quietly hold a grudge against God, why not tell him about it? Wrestling with God can take the form of ‘ugly prayers’ in which you tell God how frustrated you are. Even if that frustration is directed at him.

God can handle your screams, foot stamping, clenched fists, and whatever else you want to throw at him. Once you realize that, you can start to have an honest relationship with him. Then you will see how he loves you and provides for you, whether you are his friend or his enemy.

In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

(Matthew 5:45 NLT)

So don’t be afraid to wrestle with God in prayer. He loves his enemies and his friends, and he is known for his amazing grace and patience with his children.

Questions for Group Discussion

  • Have you ever been angry at God? Was it hard to admit to yourself that you were angry with God, or did you know it right away? Could it be that you have been angry with God at times and didn’t want to admit it to yourself?
  • Do you think ‘wrestling with God’ might be a way of uncovering the fact that you are blaming him for something that pains you?
  • Have you ever blamed your parent(s) for something and later found it was your own fault? Could this also happen between you and God?
  • Have you ever seen a child tell their parent, “I hate you”? How did it affect the parent? Did they take that statement seriously? Did the child continue ‘hating’ their parent after they calmed down? Did this cause the parent to love the child less?
  • Why do you think it is okay to ‘wrestle’ with God? Besides ‘ugly prayers,’ what could wrestling with God look like?

Prayer Critique: Application

If this exercise seems a little odd, then you should definitely try it.

Basic Instructions:

  1. Pray out loud.
  2. Record yourself doing so.
  3. Listen to the recording and critique it.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until satisfied.

To critique your prayer (in step 3), ask yourself the following questions:

  • How formal (or informal) am I in my language? Do I sound like I am trying to impress God with my words? Who do I sound like I am addressing–a friend, a loving parent, a teacher, a judge, the President?
  • How forthcoming am I? Am I openly sharing the details of my life with God? Are there things I would rather not discuss with him? Do I feel free to share my emotions, or do I feel the need to compose myself? Am I okay with complaining to God?
  • How much listening do I do? When I ask a question, how or when am I expecting an answer? Am I taking time to hear God’s voice while I pray?
  • What about my praying needs to change for me to be more honest and open with God?

Critiquing yourself can be dangerous, so remember:

  • You are a fully loved child of God.
  • There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
  • Perfection is not the goal here.

Our prayer for you is that God would show you how to give him all your worries and wrestle through any obstacles to an honest, open, loving relationship with him through faith in Jesus Christ. Amen!