[The following is an incredible word I read today in "Experiencing God's Presence" by Chris Tiegreen. I hope this beautiful story encourages you as it did me]
"This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break." Genesis 32:24
"Jacob had issues, particularly that nasty episode with his brother that had never been resolved. Years earlier, he had tricked his father into proclaiming Esau's blessing over him instead. Then Jacob fled in fear that Esau would kill him. Now, after marriage, children, and years in a far country, Jacob was returning home. He would soon see his brother face-to-face. And he feared the prospect of his past catching up with him.
Jacob was left alone in the camp, and God (as a man) came and wrestled with him all night. It's one of Scripture's strangest stories -- until we reflect on the picture and realize we've been there. There are times when we are left alone to wrestle with God, when past issues loom over our psyche and threaten to burden us with consequences and conflicts we don't want to confront. At such times, God's Presence is painful but purposeful, provoking a catharsis or cleaning from ole wounds. It can be an intense, exhausting struggle, but eventually dawn comes and we receive a blessing for having contended with God- and ourselves - face-to-face.
For your relationship with God to arrive at any depth, it has to include some sort of these wrestling matches. Old wounds must be healed, and it's sometimes a messy process. When your past and your God come face-to-face, it can sometimes be an intense encounter. But it's a necessary one, and it leads to blessing - sometimes even a new a name. The struggle lasts until dawn, but only until dawn. And with it comes a new day.
"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 32:26
Some people see surrender as the purpose of Jacob's wrestling match with God - that Jacob had to come to the end of himself and submit to God's lordship. But there seems to be no surrender in this episode, or even a need for it. Jacob had already arrived at the end of himself, unable to face his brother in his own strength and willfulness. No, the "man" who wrestled with Jacob "saw that he would not win the match" (Genesis 32:25), and Jacob refused to let go until he was blessed... No, this wasn't about surrender; this was about contending with God and knowing His heart even in the intensity of a battle.
God honors spiritual tenacity. His Presence can provoke turmoil within you for a time, but those who press through the struggles and hang on to faith in Him will be blessed. God has many sides to His face, and sometimes He seems to show a harsh one. But what do you really see - a harsh face or a tender heart? Whichever you see more clearly determines whether you can endure being on your back for a while, as well as what blessing you see at the dawning of the next day. Only the tenacious hold on to God in the midst of a wrestling match with Him and the relentless issues of life.
Hold on. Go ahead and wrestle; God doesn't mind. But if you've been flat on your back, keep holding on anyway. Stay in close contact with God, no matter how intense, and see into His heart. He wants to bless. He's waiting for the dawn. And He wants you to wait for it too. "
The following is further commentary on this passage by Matthew Henry:
"A great while before day, Jacob being alone, more fully spread his fears before God in prayer. While thus employed, One in the likeness of a man wrestled with him. When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, this did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. He will have a blessing, and had rather have all his bone put out of joint than go away without one. Those who would have the blessing of Christ, must resolve to take no denial. The fervent prayer is the effectual prayer."