I can remember sitting in Sunday school when I first heard the story of Jacob wrestling with God. I was confused by the idea of a man wrestling with Almighty God and I was even more confused at the purpose of the story. Why did God wrestle with Jacob? Why did Jacob never quit? Why on earth did God give Jacob a limp? And the list of questions I peppered my teacher with went on and on.
And yet as I got older, the story became one that I would go back to and find comfort in. Over the years, as I’ve read and reread the passage, different things about the story would stand out to me in various seasons. For starters, I love that God came down and wrestled with a person. His physical presence is a rarity throughout the Old Testament, and the fact that He came close to Jacob, wrestled with him, and blessed him is a profound kindness.
Another thing I love about this story is that God asked Jacob, “What is your name?” as if He didn’t know. But of course, God knew! It reminds me of how Jesus often asked His disciples and the Pharisees questions, not because Jesus was curious but because He wanted them to understand something important. God asked Jacob his name, and then He gave him a new name, not because Almighty God didn’t know who He was wrestling with, but because He was helping Jacob understand his identity as a son of God!
(As I said, I love this story.)
But there was one season in my life full of heartache and loss, and this passage of Scripture had a profound impact on the trajectory of my journey. In a state of disappointment and confusion, I found myself reading Genesis 32 with a different set of eyes—eyes that could see and understand wrestling with the Lord and not letting go. I was in a place where I understood Jacob’s desperation when he cried out, “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” (Genesis 32:28).
I remember that night after reading Genesis 32 praying, “God, I know that you are good and holy and that you’re ultimately for my good and Your glory. But I don’t understand my current circumstances. I can’t wrap my mind around them, and I’m wrestling with the realities of living in a fallen world. And so, Father, I’ll continue to wrestle until You bless me. It doesn’t have to look like what I think a blessing should be, but I’m not letting go of You until You make me let go.”
And, like Jacob, I wrestled with God. Not for a night, and not in a physical sense, but for a season I would beat down the doors of heaven asking God to heal what had been broken in my heart. I didn’t want material blessings; I wanted the blessing of being redeemed, reconciled, and made whole.
Over time, God worked in my heart in miraculous ways.
Months passed, and one day I woke up and realized that yes, my life had been in pieces but slowly God put something beautiful back together. Years later, even now, although I can see that He blessed me abundantly beyond what I could have ever hoped for, I still walk with a limp. The wounds life brought might be healed, but they also left their marks.
I wrestled with God, and He heard my cries. He didn’t give me everything I asked for, but He healed the broken parts of my story. Throughout my wrestling I found that what Scripture says about the character of God is true: He is a God who brings beauty from ashes, exchanges joy for mourning, and brings praise from discouragement (Isaiah 63:3).
When I read Genesis 32:22–28 now, I often smile. Because in this passage we see a man who actually wrestled with God—physically—and he left the circumstance blessed, and with a limp.
And the same has been true in my own life.
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