A Battle to a Blessing
Genesis Chapter 32 records one of the strangest stories told in the Old Testament, in which Jacob wrestles a mysterious man through an entire night. Jacob is one of the forefathers of our faith, but prior to this wrestling match he was not much more than a liar and a thief. Remember in Gen 27, where Jacob stole his twin brother Esau’s birthright and blessing. Jacob later disguised himself as his twin brother and blatantly lied to his dying father in order to steal the largest inheritance. Esau swore that he would kill his brother after their father died, which caused Jacob to flee his home. Jacob spent the next 20 years with his father-in-law, Laban, where he continued to be deceitful and self-willed. Many years pass, and Jacob now is a rich man. He has a large family and large flocks, and now must flee his father-in-law’s home under command of the Lord. Jacobdecides to return to his original home where he grew up, but that means he must face his deceit against Esau. As he and his family travel home, Jacob hears that Esau is just across the countryside, heading right to him with 400 men. Jacob fears for his family, so he sends them in separate groups while he stays behind and prays to God.
Deep into the night, as he is praying his earnest prayer, a Man appears in Jacob’s camp and the two begin a wrestling match that lasts all night. Genesis 32:22-31 records the strange story. At some point during the wrestling match, Jacob seemed to come to the conclusion that he was not wrestling against an earthly man, but a heavenly being. And so, Jacob goes from attacking this Man to just clinging to Him and requesting a blessing. The Heavenly being tells Jacob to let go, but Jacob refuses to let go until he receives a blessing. Jacob now sees that what he thought previously was a battle, actually turned out to be an opportunity for a blessing.
Often times in life we may experience misery, pain, and heartache. We may feel like we don’t deserve it. Maybe we ask God “Why is this happening to me?” If you are in this situation, let the strange story of Jacob’s wrestling match be a comfort to you. This story teaches us that many of life’s great trials can turn into blessings if we just hang on and cling to God. Jacob’s wrestling match started in conflict, but ended in a blessing. As we know from Biblical example or from experience, all of God’s people will experience hardships. But take faith that sometimes our greatest trials can turn into blessings if we just hang on. James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Another verse that helps comfort us in trials is found in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This verse promises that, if we remain faithful to God, He will take every event that occurs in our lives, positive and negative, and work them out for our ultimate good. This verse does NOT say that everything in life that happens to us will be positive, happy, and joyous. What this verse says is that all the events of our life, both good and bad, will work out to our ultimate spiritual good if we remain faithful to God. Many of us have experienced a trial in life that felt nearly impossible to survive. But later in life, sometimes months or even years later, when we look back at that challenge, test, or trial that we endured, we could clearly see God working it out for our ultimate spiritual good. Think of Jacob. During the wrestling match, the heavenly being reached down and removed his hip from its socket, which made Jacob walk with a limp the rest of his life. And yet that physical trial turned into a blessing for Jacob, because from that wrestling match on, he was no longer self-willed and deceitful.
Jacob was able to recognize that this battle, a trial of his character and strength, was actually an opportunity to grow and be better for God. As Christians today, we can greatly benefit from recognizing that God is always working for our ultimate good, even if times are tough at the moment. We can have great comfort from trusting and clinging to God when we are enduring hardships, trials, and tests, because we know that God is turning our battles into blessings.