Struggle and Strife

I used to love watching Big Daddy & Giant Haystacks on the TV when I was growing up. Saturday night wrestling came just before The A Team. What a Saturday night! I was just thinking that life can feel like a wrestling match sometimes. We can feel like it’s us versus ‘The World’. It’s as though you have to fight to get anything done, be always striving to be on top. Living like that can be exhausting, but it’s kind of where we live our lives. At least some of us. Sometimes. “Be the best that you can be!”, “Seize the day!”, “Claim your rights!”

The relentless struggle to come out on top can be tough. But for this week’s Cracked Pot, he was like it from birth. He was grasping at his twin brother’s heel as he came out of the womb. His name, Jacob, means ‘one who grasps at the heel’ or ‘the usurper’. Poor Jacob was always a bit tricky, trying to get one up on everyone else. He struggled with his brother to get the blessing from their dad and win the inheritance. He struggled with his father-in-law so that he, Jacob, would always get the best quality sheep that they were supposed to be sharing.

He struggled and grasped for power throughout his life. His most outrageous power-grab was in the time he wrestled with God. It was not an equal match.

But wrestling and grasping is what Jacob did. It was in his nature. It was who he was. In fact, God changes his name to ‘Israel’ as a result. His new name means ‘He struggles with God’.

It’s a ridiculous story. He wrestles with God all night long. And it looks like he is going to win. He is struggling to know God, to know His divine Name. It ancient cultures, if you knew someone’s name you had a power over them. Of course, Yahweh doesn’t share his name here but he does bless Jacob. The struggle, the grasping, is not in vain.

The idea of Jacob coming out on top in a struggle with God is as ridiculous as the mismatched sumo coupling in the above picture. But here God takes this thing that is something of a character flaw in poor Jacob. He uses it. He responds to it. Yes, Jacob is grasping. Yes, he’s always wanting more. But the Lord takes that hunger, which feels like a deep-seated insecurity to our modern minds, and uses it for blessing.

In the very next story after the Uber-Wrestling Match, Jacob meets up with his brother Esau, after many years estrangement. He says something that shows such a dramatic change you can wonder if it’s the same guy.

After bowing down humbly before his brother Esau, Jacob proclaims,

God has been kind to me and given me everything I need. Genesis 33:11

What a transformation. No more struggling. No more grasping. It sure looks like wrestling with God has done the trick. In Jacob, God is glorified in the struggle. It is in struggling with God that he finds contentment at long last.

Have you noticed how some folk struggle with lots of questions, struggle to be content with their lot, just plain struggle? Others seem to be able to just sail plainly through life, taking every day as it comes.

Oh, to be a plain sailor! But some of us are cracked pots with struggling and striving just part of our make up. God works with that.

This reflection is part of the ‘Cracked Pots’ series of blogs, looking at how God uses our flaws for His glory.