Wrestling with God
Genesis 32:22-31 and Matthew 14:13-21
In the Genesis passage we are faced with two of the things we are most afraid of - being alone and being in the dark. It is here, when he is at his most vulnerable, that Jacob is attacked. Someone jumps on him and he has to start wrestling. We are not told who it is, just that it is ‘a man’ and that Jacob wrestles with him all night long. It is a long and exhausting struggle, Jacob is fighting for his life, he hangs on for dear life and he refuses to submit. When the man sees that he can’t beat him, he strikes him on the hip putting his leg out of joint.
And here, as Jacob is wounded in the struggle something very strange happens. The two wrestlers stop for a moment, as if they are both exhausted, but they won’t let go of each other. And as they stand there hanging on to each other, they have a conversation. The attacker says: “Let me go, because the day is breaking.” What does Jacob say? We might expect him to say: “What do you mean, let me go! You started this!!!” But he doesn’t. He says: “I won’t let you go, unless you bless me.”
If we are going to hold on to God in the dark times, in the darkest times – we will have to be prepared to struggle. To read scripture is to know it has always been so for God’s people, not we believe because God wants to give us a hard time, but because the presence of evil and suffering in the world is a stubborn and mysterious thing.
The good news is not – come to Jesus and your struggles will all be over. The good news is that in Jesus, God comes to struggle alongside us, in the face of Jesus we see a God who will not let go of us and in Jesus, we even see, in Gethsemane’s garden and on the cross, a struggle which reaches into the very life of God.*
Feeding the 5,000
Christian Aid believes God comes to struggle alongside those who have had to eat water lilies in South Sudan, and to struggle with the mothers in Malawi who have had to boil water in the evenings to give their hungry children the impression that supper is coming, until they fall asleep with the waiting.
And when we find ourselves struggling with frustration that this kind of extreme hunger is still happening in the world today. And step into the wrestling ring of prayer to ask God, why? We are met with the compassionate eyes of Jesus from the passage in
Matthew, who sees the multitude who are hungry and says ‘you give them something to eat.’
And it is Christian Aid’s hope that we share what we have and we that we don’t let go in the struggle for justice until everyone who hungers and thirsts is filled. Even if we end up walking into the sunrise with a limp.
*Excerpt from a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Doug Gay, used with permission and appreciation.
Published on 02 August 2020
- Resilience and climate
- Resilient livelihoods