Hands Up. Don’t Shoot.

Genesis 32:24: “But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”

This tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri reminds me of our own struggles with the Almighty God. We are clearly outgunned when it comes to the Eternal One, but through persistence we can win the day. Jacob was able to wrestle with the Lord all night long because of the loving kindness of the Lord. At any moment, the battle could have ended. Was this arm in arm wrestling something that Jesus enjoyed? From afar, it would look like an extended hug. It is only the tenderness in Jesus that we find answers to our wrestling with God. Why did you not heal my Dad? Why is that marriage not working? You told me to move here, why all this pain?
A hospice chaplain tells of a patient who needed to see him because he was in great emotional distress. He was in the last stages of cancer and was feeling very guilty because he had spent the previous night ranting, raving and swearing at God. The following morning he felt dreadful. He imagined that his chance of eternal life had now been lost forever, and that God would never forgive one who had so cursed and abused Him. The chaplain asked the patient, “What do you think is the opposite of love?” The man replied: “Hate.”
Very wisely, the chaplain replied, “No the opposite of love is indifference. You have not been indifferent to God, or you would never have spent the night talking to him, honestly telling him what was in your heart and mind. Do you know the Christian word that describes what you have been doing? The word is ‘prayer’. You have spent the night praying.” (As quoted by Phillip Yancey in Prayer: Does It Make a Difference? page 100)
There are no good answers to the mess in Ferguson. For our own unanswered prayers the answer is NOT to stop praying, or stop having faith in a God that would allow this. It is to imitate Jacob (who got a new name which translates to “God-wrestler”) and say to God, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” But we may go through the rest of our lives with a limp.


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