Readings: Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 17:1-7, 15, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:13-21.
What really struck me this week in the readings was the story of Jacob wrestling with his past, with his issues, and his doubts. It seems that even as early as the beginning, men and women of God have struggled with doubt and sin, and, well, life. However, it appears that God was ok with Jacob’s doubts and wrestling, and because Jacob truly loved God, he came out the other side still believing and still loving God. For me one of the remnants of fundamentalism is feeling guilty when I have doubts or when I struggle with various things, but even the most spiritual of people have screwed up badly and that’s because, as it says in Romans, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Doubt and struggle appears to be part of the faith experience for every Christian. Jacob was honest about his struggles and doubts, and he chose to engage in them and wrestle with them, and came out of the experience a different person. He had a permanent reminder of his struggle, possibly so that he could remember that what he had experienced was real. He had struggled with God and survived. Furthermore, God was not only ok with this struggle, but God engaged him and wrestled with him. Even in Jacob’s fear and doubt and struggle, God was there. In fact, God showed up in a much more personal way during this time.
This gives me hope to know that not only is it ok to wrestle with my faith and my struggles and my doubts, but that God is there in the midst of it, guiding those things, allowing me to wrestle with these things. Honestly, Jacob wasn’t what you’d call a nice guy. He had broken relationships and he’d done a heap of bad things, but despite all of that, he loved God. And after he wrestled with God, he was a changed man. Wrestling with doubts and struggles and coming out the other side changes us.
I’m reading in “The Voice” version this year (I change versions every year, although I do compare passages in other versions also, I have a main one for the year) as it helps me to see the Bible in fresh ways. In “The Voice” verse 24 says that “Jacob stayed behind, left alone in his distress and doubt.” But after the struggle, after the wrestling, it goes on to say further down in verse 28: “you have wrestled with God and humanity, and you have prevailed.” Jacob wrestled with God, and he prevailed. That’s what’s important in this picture. Struggles, doubts, fears, failures, wrestling with all these things is well and good, as long as we prevail, as long as we use them as faith builders rather than faith destroyers. I need to use these times of doubt and failure to build my faith rather than tear it down. That faith may look different than it used to, because the purpose of struggling through these things is to grow.
Embrace the doubts, engage them, and prevail.