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Wrestling with God

I once read that anger is sadness's bodyguard. I believe it is also the calcification of repeated suppression of once’s truth and the ignorance of our deepest despair and grief. We push it down and lock it up because it’s that emotion so many of our parents and guardians did not know how to approach within themselves, so to no avail or blame to them, the hamster wheel kept turning for each generation thereafter. Perhaps, a few brave souls won’t be afraid to press their fingers into the deep soul wounds from generations past. Perhaps, we can release the anger and hold our grief for a little while in our hands. Perhaps we can quench the thirst of our grieving souls with our very own tears, and love our sadness without fear of repercussion. Perhaps, just perhaps, we can partner with anger rather than seeing it as our enemy. As Christ says, love your enemies as you love yourself, for it is easy to love a friend, but difficult to love an enemy. In the same token, it’s easy to love our happiness, but it’s difficult to love our anger. Yet, today, I’m convinced our greatest breakthrough is on the other side of partnering with our anger as a vehicle for change on the open road, not as a vehicle trapped on a dead-end street with no way out.

For whoever needs to hear this I need you to know-being a Christian does not mean you do not feel angry or sad sometimes, and especially with God. To be a child of God actually means that you have an invitation to hash things out with God. It means you have an invitation to lay your armor of anger down and feel your grief. He will bless you and love you all the same. It’s not the bad guy trio of emotions and it surely is not a sin to feel anger, grief, or sadness. In fact, it’s a gift we can harness for good and for change in our walk. It’s okay to wrestle with God, to doubt His existence, to be angry with Him, to be sad, and grieving from the aches and pains of life. He is not going anywhere. He created emotions for a reason and it is important to explore them, feel them, and use them as clues as to what needs attention or healing in our lives. After all, God’s own son cried out to him in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus pleaded in agony to God with desperation and tears soaking His face because he knew of the brutal beating, humiliation, and crucifixion He soon must face. Yet on the other side of His deep agonizing sadness was a glorious Resurrection! A King seated on His throne on the right of His Father.

It is no coincidence that we see woven throughout the Bible similar stories. For instance, the famous story of Jacob in the field. As the story goes Jacob had left home and was hiding from his brother Esau who was angry with him for stealing both his birthright and His inheritance as the firstborn son. Yet, one day God told Jacob he needed to return home. Jacob was angry with God for if he went home surely he would be killed. Thus, Jacob sent his people ahead of him and he secluded himself in a field. All of a sudden a man came to Jacob and they wrestled all night until dawn. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the Jacob’s hip and it popped out of his socket. In Genesis 32: 26-29 we see the turning point of Jacob's grief turn into his reward. It says, “Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.”

In that moment of wrestling, Jacob realizes he was face to face with God in the midst of his anger and this changed his life forever, so much so, that he received a blessing for himself and generations to come. He also receives a new identity through the symbolism of a new name, Israel, meaning “God Contended”. Wrestling with God is a sure-fire way to secure our faith and re-establish our identity in Him. Sometimes it feels like we fight and wrestle with God in an act to prove to ourselves that God is real. Yet, God is so good he invites us to duke it out with Him, to express our frustrations, anger, and sadness. We can shake our fists and cry pleading with the God of promise to show up and explain to us why we face such deep pain and obstacles. He wants us to wrestle with anger to release our grief to Him.

When God saves us from sin, He doesn't just want to see an outward change in us. He wants to see a complete inner transformation of the way we think and view ourselves as His children. In Romans 12:2 we are reminded that we are called to renew our minds, casting off our old ways of thinking and rejecting the world's wisdom. In the same way, when Jacob wrestled with God there was a complete inner transformation of the way he thought about himself and the goodness of God. In the midst of our despair when it feels like God could not be any further away from loving us or blessing us we could be one grappling fight with God away from the next big turning point in our lives. In closing, if I could share anything with each and every one of you it is this, do not reject the invitation from God to feel your own internal struggles. Find it within yourself to be brave and rip to shreds every lie of the enemy. If you have to have a screaming wrestling match or two with God or step away for a bit to find your grounding, that is okay. It will without a doubt draw you deeper into a relationship with God and on the other side of your pain is a blessing for you and generations to come.

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