a writing by Elizabeth Padillo Olesen

In one way or another we find chances to wrestle with God. It is engaging a duel with him, trying to find his power and presence in relation to our own strength and limits.

Jacob wrestled with God in a cave, as he rested from his long escape away from Esau, his brother, who wanted to revenge against him for the grievous offence he did against his brother by stealing away Esau’s birthright. In Jacob’s fear and aloneness and in his fight to defend his own life, he experienced wrestling a power greater than himself, which at the end made him surrender. He wrestled with God’s presence until it was dawn and discovered that he was defeated and it was God who won. Jacob saw himself naked, a treacherous fragile being before an awesome and powerful presence.

The same thing with Job. He was a good and rich man. He had honour and all the material belongings of a great, respected and powerful man. But at a wink of an eye, he lost them all, including his own children and health. His body was covered with disease and sores, making him an awful sight to those around him. Job wrestled with God, declaring his righteousness and mouthing his need to be justly dealt by God. But his wrestling,as witnessed by his friends, enabled him to see that he could not win. He was a man before an awesome presence and as a human being, he might as well surrender to that great power.

To undergo crises in life, like getting sick or losing someone we love, losing a job, going bankrupt, or undergoing so much pain because of abrupt loss and change in normal life gives us a chance to wrestle with God. It is bringing us into the central point in life when we are able to pick up what we can consider the most precious thing among other things, which are left before us. It is bringing us to the center point that is God. It is letting us discover the moments when what we all depend on and hope for which we pin upon materials things and fellow human beings go in disillusion and total bankruptcy. And it is when no other option is left, and we are led to wrestle with God, to make bargain and pledges, to cry and pray, wanting only to be heard and be helped.

Wrestling with God is a privilege. Others may cease to struggle. Even the moment of acceptance must come out of the wrestling. It is coming closer to God, refusing to look at God as a simple term which humans have coined. It is knowing that deep in our soul and in our hearts, there is a still voice, awakening us to hope and wait. It is the voice of God calling us to respond actively—to wrestle with him through our questions, cries and screams, through a sharing of our doubts, fear and anger and at the end when seeing his power and experiencing his awesome presence, we cannot help but surrender to his will. It is because we cannot win in the duel. We cannot win because he bears us by his strong and mighty hands.

December 20, 2010
Jacob and Job are two characters in The Old Testament of the Bible.

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