The last two years have been marked by a piercing sense of uncertainty among the roar of shifting opinions and answers. How do you respond to seasons of suspended ambiguity? My gut impulse is to grasp for answers much like a trapeze artist might reach for the next swinging bar.
Most of us feel insecure in the unknown. We like being sure of what is coming around the corner. But what if unexpected gifts are found in the waiting and not knowing?
In Genesis 32:22-32, we read the story of a wrestling match between Jacob and a man. “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak” (Genesis 32:24). This passage does not directly name the man. However, Jacob naming the place of wrestling Peniel indicates he had indeed seen God’s face and lived.
I grew up with two brothers back when Macho Man Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan were at the height of their careers in the World Wrestling Federation. We would watch wrestling on TV, then turn the living room into our wrestling ring to recreate the drama.
Why would God wrestle with Jacob? Wrestling is all about submission. The opponents maneuver their hold on each other until one surrenders to the power and strength of the other.
Jacob wrestled with God for control, blessing and answers. But God wrestled with Jacob to bless him amid unanswered questions and teach him submission and trust.
“Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there” (Genesis 32:29).
God had already done so much to shape Jacob’s heart through his favor and provision. But God wanted more, catalyzing change not through clear answers, material blessing and protection but through struggle and ambiguity. He gave Jacob a new name, Israel, that reinforced his identity, inheritance and destiny.
Jacob became aware of the grace of God’s presence. He was changed by his face-to-face encounter with God, becoming more convinced that he was not just the God of his father and grandfather, but his God too, the “God of Israel” (Genesis 33:20, ESV).
Like he did with Jacob, God wrestles with us to nurture the submission and trust necessary to step obediently and confidently into what God has planned. If you find yourself grasping for control in a season of uncertainty, perhaps God is inviting you to a wrestling match.
What questions will you ask God? How might he want to bless you amid unanswered questions? What if instead of looking for answers, you asked to see his face? What might God be shaping in you so that you can love others well for his kingdom purposes?
Nikki Nettleton is the director of Learning and Leadership for Global Partners.