I’ve been wrestling with the deep and the hard these last few years.
God knows it. I know it. The bell sounds and we go another round.
I think of Jacob wrestling all night long and I think, wow, what a relief that would be if this only lasted one night.
But I am persistent. (Okay, stubborn.) And I do not let go after one night, or one year, or one long, long time.
So God and I were going another round the other night when I was suddenly struck with the thought:
I will give you what you ask for. It will even be good (because God only gives good gifts). But you will miss out on what I intended to give you that is even better. It’s your choice.
I can’t guarantee the thought was from God, but I can tell you it jolted me at such a visceral level that I’m pretty sure it’s not one I conjured of my own volition. It certainly made me pause and consider what I was asking.
Could I really wear God down? Could I ask him so persistently for something outside his perfect will that he would actually give it to me?
The answer, I think, is yes.
Examples of Wrestling in the Bible
Think of Abraham arguing with God for the people of Sodom. He persistently wore God down all the way from 50 to 10. If God found just 10 righteous people in the city, he would not destroy it (Genesis 18). Or think of Jacob in Genesis 32, with his one-night wrestling match, who ultimately received his blessing (along with a physical limp which is a side note for another day).
Then there is the parable Jesus told in Luke 18 of the unjust judge. By persistence the widow was granted what she requested, even though the judge did not fear God or care about her. If that is the outcome of persistence with a judge who does not care, think how much more will be granted by a Judge who does care.
And lest we rest on these in the comfort of knowing that such prayers were answered because they already aligned with God’s perfect will, let me remind you of Romans 1, where God gave people over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done. Or remember Numbers 11, where the people grumbled and complained to God until he gave them the meat they asked for, which ultimately made them all sick.
Be careful what you pray for, it has often been said. Because you just might get it.
“This, then, is how you should pray,” Jesus told his disciples. “Our Father, who art in heaven… thy will be done.”
There are things I want in life. Sometimes very badly. I don’t understand why some people get them and others do not. But if I believe that God is good, that His plan for me is far grander and more fulfilling that any I could ascribe to myself, and if I believe that God can and will grant me far more than I could ever dare to ask or dream – if I believe all of that, then even more than wanting what I want, I want what He wants.
I don’t know what it means to deny oneself, pick up your cross, and follow Jesus, but I am afraid I may be in the process of finding out. The unexpected catch is that it really is a choice. God may give me what I ask for. I may wear Him down with my tears and pleading, and in so doing I may miss out on the even better plan.
I can go part way and stop, test the waters and turn back or choose to never begin.
Or I can go all the way through to the end.
A Simple Shift
Deep down I know what my answer is. I know what my answer always has been. But rather than feel the body lock release, I feel the wrestling hold simply shift. A change in perspective changes the wrestling match; it does not end it.
Sanctification is the fancy word for the process we go through our entire lives as we become more like Jesus. Put another way, sanctification is the process of aligning our will with God’s will. We are to be transformed, by the renewing of our minds, so that we can discern God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will (Romans 12).
Transformation sounds lovely. Discernment would be a blessed gift.
I think we get there by wrestling.
Just be careful what you’re wrestling for.
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Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s Word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her two- and four-footed friends. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org