So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Genesis 32:30-31 ESV
In my mind victory looks like a basketball team jumping up and down after the last second shot swished through the net. The victorious are the strong and healthy. They glow from their exertion, but they beam bright because their hard work paid off.
But victory often limps. It is a messy business to cling to God in the darkest most difficult moments and wrestle with Him. Most people’s glib advice is to not wrestle with God because He will always win. But on a very dark night, Jacob did wrestle with God.
Jacob was preparing to meet his brother whom he hadn’t seen in many years. The last time Jacob saw his brother Esau, Esau was ready to kill Jacob. Jacob stole their father’s blessing and conned Esau into giving away his birthright. No wonder Jacob stayed up all night wrestling with God.
God’s Word doesn’t tell us what type of conversation occurred while Jacob clung to God. I wonder what questions he asked God, did God do all the talking? One thing I have discovered is when I wrestle with God I come away changed and blessed, just like Jacob did. In that wrestling embrace God is near enough to whisper truth into my ear. He convicts, corrects, encourages, reminds of His promises. But I have to be willing to dive into the messy dirt and refuse to let go until I’m blessed, just like Jacob did.
I wonder when Jacob got up and limped past Penuel did he look disheveled? Was there a cloud of dust emanating from his clothes and dried grass sticking out of his hair? I often feel that way as I get up from a wrestling match with God. I feel battered, but not broken, a bit off kilter because God’s nearness does that to a person. And I limp, forever changed by a God more fearsome than I can fathom and yet exponentially more loving.
This limping victory though is just part of the story. One day, when Jesus comes again, there will no longer be limping victory. There will be complete victory – victory over sin, death, hell, injustice. What a day that will be when we meet Jesus face to face and there will be no more tears or pain. Until then I will be content with the limping victories where God refines and sanctifies me this side of heaven.
Father God, I confess that I don’t always cling to You when things are difficult. Instead I stand aloof in my doubts, worries, and frustrations. Forgive me for failing to wrestle with You, for failing to cling to You and bring my fears, doubts, and questions to You. Help me to remember that victory this side of heaven often limps. May I always be willing to wrestle with You so that through Your Spirit I may walk changed an blessed. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.