How to Struggle with God and Win

Jacob's brawl at the Jabbok River gives a model of how to do it.

What does it take for God to change you? In the Bible, when the Lord changed Jacob, it took a brawl. Isn’t it often the same with us? But that’s actually good news. 

Jabbok River at Peniel

(Photo: Jabbok River at Peniel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

These times we struggle with the Father represent His grace. It’s never easy, and it often seems rigged in God’s favor.

But Jacob shows us how to win the struggle.

Wrestling by the River

After a desperate Jacob sent his family and possessions on across the Jabbok River, he remained alone as he anticipated meeting his brother, Esau, again.

Suddenly, he instead faced the Lord—in the form of a man—and wrestled with Him until a mere touch from the Man wrenched the patriarch’s hip from its socket. “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking,” the Man said.

“I will not let you go,” Jacob replied, “unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).

The Lord asking him his name elicited nothing less than a confession, for Jacob means “heel–catcher” or “deceiver.” Having confessed, he could then be blessed. “Your name shall no longer be Jacob,” the Man said, “but Israel [meaning “God fights”]; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

Israel called the place where the change had occurred Peniel. The name means “God’s face,” revealing the significance of the event.

The Way to Win a Struggle with God

The patriarch encountered the Almighty face to face, and it changed him.

  • Jacob learned that his manipulative, deceiving ways did not hold the means of getting God’s blessing.
  • God determined to bless him, but first the Lord determined that Jacob surrender his will. And in so doing, the Lord told him he prevailed.
  • He won the struggle by surrendering.

The Father may take you places to wrestle with you for a time—years, perhaps—and at any moment finish the struggle with one crushing touch.

These excruciating events in your life represent His grace, for in the pain He means not to destroy you but to compel you to change—that He may bless you.

Tell me what you think: What does it take for the Lord to change you? To leave a comment, just click here.

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This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible.

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