Yeshua (Jesus) spent much time alone with God. On one extended occasion when He was seeking God alone, he went into the Judean Desert for 40 days and nights. It was there that He was tempted.
Scripture tells us that our wrestling matches are not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers of darkness.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the rulers of the darkness, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
This is one reason why our struggling can become so painful: we are sometimes not quite sure what (or whom) we are wrestling with!
This was Job’s dilemma—Satan was causing his trouble, but did so with God’s permission. And his pain was compounded by the insistence of his friends that he must have sinned for God to be punishing him so terribly. They told him that if he would only confess his hidden sin, everything would be okay.
Although Job was a righteous and blameless man, even in God’s sight, He wrestled on several fronts—with God, with man, and with Satan—and even his wife!
If ever anyone was justified in giving up, it would have been Job. Even his contentious, unbelieving wife, speaking for the enemy, advised him to give up and die.
“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’” (Job 2:9)
Often, the enemy will use those closest to us to bring discouragement. Still, Job continued—even through his grief, confusion, and pain—to remain steadfastly confident in his God.
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:25–27)
Getting Back on Our Feet After We Are Wrestled to the Ground
“For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground.” (Psalm 143:3)
How do we know in a wrestling match when one of the opponents has lost?
Is it not when one of the wrestlers is pinned to the ground and cannot get up again? Likewise, we have not lost if we become weary or discouraged, or even feel like giving up, but only if we fail to rise up again.
There are times when the enemy has us pinned to the mat.
We cannot be faulted for struggling with God, man, or Satan. And it doesn’t matter that we have fallen. We have not lost until we simply refuse to get up again.
“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” (Proverbs 24:16)
God can and will raise us up, dust us off, and set our feet back on solid rock.
“The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down.” (Psalm 146:14)
It’s by His grace that we continue to press onward with the battle cry, “Kadima!” (Go forth!)
Why must we wrestle with God for the blessing? There is a redemptive purpose in the struggle.
Surely, in Jacob’s case, the mysterious, divine man could have overpowered Jacob in a split second. But in the struggle, Jacob’s nature was changed to inherit the promises of God. He was not fit before the struggle. So too, we must be trained in endurance in order to finish the race set out before us.
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Yeshua, the author and finisher of our faith….” (Hebrews 12:1–2)
Putting Struggle into Perspective
“Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 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.’” (Genesis 32:11–12)
Jacob struggled his entire life.
As a twin, he was born alongside a violent and conniving twin brother, Esau, who contended with him for the blessing and birthright. For his own safety, he ran away from his brother who threatened to kill him for winning the battle.
Later, his father-in-law, Laban, tricked Jacob into marrying the firstborn daughter and coerced him into seven extra years of hard work for his wife Rachel.
Furthermore, Laban tried to cheat Jacob out of his wages several times.
As a father, Jacob suffered the heartbreak of his only daughter Dinah being raped. And then to his dismay, in revenge, his sons Simon and Levi tricked the entire male population of Shechem into being circumcised and slaughtered them all while they were recovering!
Jacob’s (Israel’s) beloved wife Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, just prior to the death of his father Isaac.
As if this were not enough, his 10 elder sons kidnapped Joseph and led Jacob to believe that his favorite son had been killed by a wild animal.
Yet, through the entire struggle of Jacob’s life, he never abdicated his destiny in God.
Wrestling with Real-World Issues
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:16)
Abraham and Isaac led separated, set-apart lives. While Abraham did pray for Sodom and Gomorrah, he would not live among them. His son Isaac walked away from the Philistines and would not mix with the inhabitants of the land.
But it was Jacob (Israel) and his children, engaged and struggling with the real issues of community life, who were entrusted with establishing the Jewish nation. Jacob brought God into the world of commerce, politics and everyday life.
So, too, we are called to be in the world, but not of the world. We walk a fine line and take cues from Yeshua (Jesus).
Yeshua did not separate himself from the common people, but was known as a friend of sinners.
Although we struggle and wrestle throughout our lives, we too can have an impact by bringing God into the real world in which we live.