Have you ever wrestled with God during what some call the “dark night of the soul?” These times seem nearly impossible to get through.
We are struggling with big questions. Who I am? Who do I want to be? Who does God want me to be? How much of my situation is me and how much is God? God, can You give me Your promise this situation is going to turn out good? Can You tell me what to do?
Consider the situation of Jacob, a self-reliant man who actually wrestled with God during the dark night of his soul. Everything he had he had earned. He didn’t need much from God. He leaves his father-in-law’s home with his two wives, children and most of his father-in-law’s flocks. Jacob had earned these rightfully, but still Laban, the father-in-law, was angry.
Now Jacob is headed off to meet Esau, his brother, whom Jacob has wronged. He is concerned that Esau is going to be really angry with him, possibly to the point of taking his life. He couldn’t go back and he was frightened to go forward.
We may have emotionally and spiritually wrestled with God, but Jacob actually physically wrestled with God. He was desperate. This was a situation for which He needed a God-sized intervention. He would not let go until God blessed him.
Jacob had divided his family and flocks into two groups and he really didn’t know what was going to happen.
It’s when he sends a portion of his family on ahead and spends the night that God shows up. Scripture doesn’t tell us for sure it is God. However later Jacob calls the place he meets the man, Peniel because he has “seen God face to face and my life is preserved.”1
Jacob’s life is preserved, but in the wrestling match God touches Jacob’s hip and throws it out of socket. Yet Jacob will not let go even when God tells him to let go.
Jacob says, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.”2 At that point, God’s blessing includes changing Jacob’s name from “Deceiver” to Israel because, “you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.”3
From that day on, though, because of the wrestling match with God, Jacob walks with a limp.
Many times we like to quote Philippians 4:13 with a swagger and an emphasis on the first letter, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We don’t really take into consideration that “all things” might include suffering.
“It is in moments of desperation and dependence that I am strengthened,” Risner said. “Beneath the surface, we want our own glory. We will have to wrestle with God in the end for He is more concerned with His glory which leads to our greatest good.
It’s in our weakness, not in our strength, that we find God’s power ready to help us.4 But many times we aren’t willing to admit our weaknesses.
Jacob realized he was stuck and He needed a God-sized intervention. He had messed up. Yes, it had been years before, but still this was a mess of his own making. He needed God to fix it.
Jacob is a guy I can relate to. Maybe you can, too. Unfortunately there have been times I have felt I didn’t really need to call on God. I quote Philippians 4:13. I say, “I’ve got this.”
However, there are many more times I know my weaknesses have gotten me into one giant mess from which I can only emerge with God’s help.
It’s in these times that God has broken my pride, just like He did Jacob’s. God will never bless pride and He will never bless unbroken people.
“If you want God’s blessing, you must let God break you,” Risner said. “You must become broken and learn what it means to hang on to God alone. Struggle well. Don’t avoid it. Don’t run from it. Be broken and experience God’s blessing.”
Jacob would forever and always walk with a limp as a reminder that he was dependent on God. Personally, I have a few of scars of my own that remind me of the same thing.
Here is the point of today’s message, a point worth remembering: “It is better to limp into the promised land and into God’s blessing than to walk unaffected and self-reliant without Him.”
If you are in the dark night of the soul, know this, submission brings God’s blessing. He promises to mold you and make you into His masterpiece. When He does, you will do all the good things He planned for you from the foundation of the world.5
1 Genesis 32:30
2 Genesis 32:26
3 Genesis 32:28
4 2 Corinthians 12:9
5 Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Teresa Shields Parker is a wife, mother, business owner, life group leader, speaker and author of Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor and Sweet Grace Study Guide: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Overcome Sugar Addiction. Get a free chapter of her memoir on her blog at Teresa Shields Parker.com. Connect with her there or on her Facebook page.