I was reminded again today that we cannot predict how God will act. The reminder came as I was reading the account in Genesis 32 of Jacob wrestling with God:
“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.”
The man, as the narrative goes on to reveal, was God himself. So, let’s think about this. Jacob was in trouble. The next day, he was going to meet his brother Esau whom he had cheated out of both birthright and blessing. Esau was on his way with 400 men. Understandably, Jacob was worried that this was going to be the end for himself and his whole family.
Jacob takes action. He splits up his flocks and herds. He sends presents on ahead to his brother. He has his family move to a place of safety. And – most important of all – he prays.
And then ... “a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”
Stop. Consider this for a minute. Jacob is alone. Praying. Probably worrying. Pacing the ground. An unknown man appears out of the darkness of the night.
Now, Jacob didn’t know at first that this was God, otherwise he would have fallen on his face in worship. He assumed it was just a man. That being said, I don’t think Jacob said to this complete stranger, “Hey, I’m really tense right now – how about going a few rounds to help me work it out of my system?” I also don’t think that Jacob would have attacked someone who came up to him unless he was provoked.
So ... that leaves me with this rather startling thought:
I think God jumped him.
I really do. As I see it in my mind’s eye, Jacob was pacing and praying and a man appears at the edge of the firelight and throws him to the ground without a word of warning.
It doesn’t say how long they wrestled, but I suspect this was not over in just a few minutes. God let Jacob sweat and strain and feel the bruising impact of being taken down to the ground again and again.
And then, this, “... he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.”
That hardly seems fair, Lord!
So now, Jacob is in agony on the ground, his hip out of joint. But he won’t let go of the man. He has realized, sometime in the terrifying struggle, that this is God he is fighting with. And Jacob asks for and receives a blessing.
Now, when I go to prayer with a serious need, I want comfort and grace and peace and joy and hope and deliverance ... in other words, I want God to bless the situation and the people in it, including me.
God may want to give me all those things ... but I can’t predict how he will choose to do so.
Like he did with Jacob, God may jump me in my darkest night. I may have to wrestle with fear and terror and the unknown. I may feel the strain and the pain of a fight that I didn’t choose with an antagonist I cannot see. He may even wound me, purposefully and deliberately.
If those words shake you, be assured that they shake me, too. But remember that God did not jump Jacob without a reason. He provoked the wrestling match and caused the pain to bring about a blessing that was far greater than the blessing Jacob had originally been praying for during that long, dark night.
If I had to sum it all up, I would say this:
We can never predict HOW God will act, but we can always have confidence in WHO God is.