Have you ever looked at some of the Biblical stories and been completely surprised to find that some of those stories are in there? The Bible is filled with stories of people caught in adultery, murder, deceit, lying, cheating, stealing and any number activities that are unsavory and downright wrong. Thinking back to these stories it brings new meaning to the phrase “it’s in the Bible.” Especially if someone is trying to say that what they are doing is okay because it’s “in the Bible,” that would give them a pretty wide margin of things they could do.
Like the Church family being a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints the Bible is filled with plenty of examples of people gone wrong not pages filled with the best of behaviors. That should give to us a lot of comfort, because if the Bible was filled with people only making the right choices and only the right things, we could never relate, it would never mirror our own lives.
Instead, what we see in the pages of Scripture is struggle. Lots and lots of struggle. It is filled with our good and gracious God working within broken and sinful people and those people struggling with God.
This struggle comes from so many different angles. Both from inside and outside. From our own hearts and minds pulling us this way and that way and from the world around laughing at, insulting, coercing and tempting us all away from God. We so often feel like we are in the middle of that struggle, but so often as well instead of letting God fight for us as he has promised we find ourselves struggling against God ourselves and trying to go where everyone else tells us to go.
There this great blog I follow written by a young Christian women in here late twenty’s who struggled with and is recovering from anorexia. The blog talks about her journey of faith that led her through her own struggle with anorexia to a good place of health. In her most recent blog she talks about how she felt recently how the world was laughing at her. One of the things this young lady is proud of, is that she has remained a virgin and plans to do so till her wedding day. But when she went for the first time to a comedy club the first batch of jokes was all about virginity and archaic being a virgin and waiting till marriage was. Then she read about those leaked emails where it seemed like campaign managers where ridiculing the Catholic faith as out dated and misogynic. These two aspects of her Christianity that are very close to her heart- her virginity and her Catholic faith were being ridiculed. She struggled with that, should she meet those expectations, should she continue to follow God? (Read her article here)
Which path do I follow? My God is holding me secure and has guided me on a way to live that is godly and upright or being pulled and pulling myself away from the God who loves me to try and meet up to a world of standards that never stay the same. We want to try and keep up with them, have what they seem to have, be like that in some way, maybe success or a wealth or fame.
But sometimes that struggle comes from our own hearts when the world comes crashing down around us. When what we thought was secure is not, when those that we trusted break our trust, when we deal with uncertainty and fear. We hear God’s Words that tell us that God is with us and has not abandoned us and will bring us home, but we fight and we punch and we kick at God, we yell and scream at God we struggle. Can we trust you God even when it’s all gone crazy.
Then we feel bad later and wonder if we said the wrong thing to God, if we were disrespectful, can we really struggle with God? Can we really give God all that we’ve got, even the ugly stuff? Even the ugly words?
This is when especially, we go back to the Biblical stories of these less than perfect people. We see the story of Jacob in a few moments before he struggled with God. (Most commentaries talk about this struggle being with pre-incarnate Jesus Christ)
The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
Jacob in his life had been a cheat, a thief and a liar. (You can read all about Jacob’s story, from Genesis 25-33, starting with chapter 25 here.) He believed he was about to be murdered by his brother Esau in the morning and all of the choices in his life came to a head right here at this moment and…
Jacob struggled with God.
You can imagine he yelled, kicked, screamed, swore, punched against God. He didn’t hold back. But this contest was never going to be won by Jacob. He knows this when he calls the place where his struggle occurred, Peniel- he saw God face to face and his life was spared. There was no doubt in this struggle.
It reminds me of when my kids were younger (and still today they try!) to wrestle me and knock me over. Never happened, no matter how hard they threw themselves at me, I would hold them over my head giggling all the way.
But here, Jacob was giving it all to God, crying and pounding his fists into God’s chest, while God held him there in His arms.
So the answer is yes. God lets us struggle with Him all the time. Give God it all, yell, scream, fight, struggle with all of our might with God. God loves you, not only can God take it but God invites you to give it to Him, give Him your best shot, give it all to God. God doesn’t only take what is pretty and nice and churchy looking, God takes us all, all that we are, all the struggle, all the fight, all we got.
Give it all to God, God can take it and God does because God loves us.