It's Okay To Wrestle With God. Really.
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It's Okay To Wrestle With God. Really.

Don't give up if (when) something about God or the Bible bothers you--He can withstand questions and doubts and come out on top.

It's Okay To Wrestle With God. Really.

People who are close to me know that I love talking about religion. And if you've known me long enough, you will indubitably have heard me talk about wrestling with God at LEAST once. It's one of those topics that I care about more than anything, closely followed by my opinion on mac & cheese. This one is a little more serious, though.

Why do I talk about it so much? Because it's close to my heart. I was speaking with one of my dear friends a few weeks ago, and she said that what happens in our past is likely to shape the way you care about others, and I completely agree. My childhood and adolescence very concretely shaped who I am as an adult. There are words I wish were spoken to me back then, and it's so important that I speak them over others now, such that anyone struggling with what I worried over can hear some good truth. And good grief, I needed a lot of truth about wrestling with God.

I went through a season some years ago where believing in the existence of a God felt impossible. And it wasn't for lack of trying--no matter how much willpower I mustered, prayers I cried, Google searches I did, Bible I read, books I got from the library, nothing. It just didn't click. And I wanted it so bad; the deepest desire of my heart was for certainty. I desperately wanted God to be real to me.

I often felt guilty for doubting God. If He was supposed to be the One who created me (Psalm 139:14-16), the King over the entire universe (Psalm 97:6), awesome and powerful (Job 26:7-14), the defeater of death (2 Timothy 1:10)--If He was supposed to be all this, what on earth was I doing doubting Him? But an even deeper nagging--and one that brought me great terror--was that if I can't see or feel or hear anything supernatural, maybe this God didn't exist at all.

I thank God every day that this season didn't last forever. It lasted for years, but it ended. God convinced me of His presence through the Bible, through other Christians, through the beauty of nature. Before I really get into what I'm writing here, I want to encourage those of you who don't feel like there is a God out there. I was given a gift of rediscovering Jesus, and waking up to Him introducing Himself to me is an experience beyond all I could have desired. I am praying that you persist in searching for Him and that He reveals Himself to you soon. It's worth it. It is so worth it.

It took a whole lot to get me out of the despair that I had felt beforehand. Works of God, first, but also personal time and energy, and mentorship from some brilliant and compassionate people. And then there were all of the hard questions I asked about God afterward (because there are a lot of them that keep popping up). Those took digging my heels in and asking God for help and clarity, too. In the interest of brevity, however, I'll share one of the most influential and hopeful truths that helped get me through to the other side:

It's okay to wrestle with God.

If you don't believe it, read it again. Pray it. Cry through it. Do whatever it takes.

There's this passage in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, that contained the original message behind this statement. A man named Jacob was travelling from Mesopotamia to a region in Modern-day Jordan in about 1900 BC. Decades prior, he had cheated his brother Esau out of his inheritance of the firstborn. Jacob was now travelling to meet Esau, and was terrified, because Esau had declared that he would kill him. As the day approaches when they would meet, Jacob spends the night in isolation. A mysterious man appears to Jacob and wrestles with him all night. Eventually, this man dislocates Jacob's hip and demands to stop the scuffle. Jacob refuses to stop until the man blesses him. This man then renames Jacob to Israel.

This passage is significant. The people in Genesis spoke Hebrew, and when God spoke to people, He often changed their names to signify how the people themselves are changed after encountering Him. Jacob (in Hebrew, the deceiver), was now called Israel (the one who wrestles with God). The man tells Jacob, "you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome."

Immediately after this point in the passage, Jacob (now Israel) said, "I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." What happened here? Jacob met God. Or, perhaps the more accurate thing to say was God met Jacob where he was at. Jacob was afraid for his life, for the lives of his family, for his probably-furious brother. And God met Him there. Jacob was feeling anything but peace, anything but blessed. And all night, God didn't give up on him. All night, He let Jacob fight and wrestle and strive.

The good news? God was strong enough to withstand it. And Jacob was better for it. Israel was better for it. God will hold up against every doubt, every angry yell, every question, every despair. That's who He is.

There are other parts of the Bible that tell us about the Israelites, or the descendants of Jacob. This moniker is extended to all who believe in God as the Bible progresses (see Hosea 1:10, Romans 9:26). There's unbelieveable beauty here. You, me, Christians everywhere, we are given the name Israelite, or child of Israel, or Son or Daughter of the Living God. We are under that umbrella of the ones who wrestle with God. That's our identity, that's our name. God meets us where we are and will let us wrestle Him as long as it takes until we understand Him better.

I'll leave you with this quote from Jon Acuff: "Wrestling with God is a sign of intimacy. You can't wrestle with someone you're far away from." Getting close enough to God in order to wrestle is a blessing. Searching the Bible, praying with honesty, living in sacrifice and selflessness--that's how you can prepare your heart for His presence.

Having questions and desperate curiosity and doubt and confusion is not a bad thing. It's an opportunity to take them to God and say, "Put your hands up. I'm ready to fight. And I trust that You're going to win."

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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