What are you wrestling with right now? Finances? Relationships? Grief? Loss? Opportunities? Disappointments?

In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestled with God. It’s one of the most mysterious passages in Scripture.

In the background, Jacob had another wrestling match taking place. A reunion with his long estranged half-brother Esau was on the horizon.

Jacob and Esau had been wrestling since birth -actually, before birth! (Genesis 25:22-23)

The two brothers were constantly at odds. At one point, Jacob even conned Esau into selling his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34). The struggle climaxed when Jacob stole Esau’s blessing from their father Isaac (Genesis 27). Isaac became so angry that Esau comforted himself by planning to kill Jacob (Genesis 27:42). That’s typically a relationship red flag! So at the urging of his mother, Jacob fled the scene (Genesis 27:43).

Fast forward twenty-something years. Jacob has become a successful businessman. He owns massive flocks and has a large entourage. But life hasn’t been perfect. He has a rocky relationship with his father-in-law Laban (another story for another time) and decides to flee with his wives (did I mention both of his wives were Laban’s daughters?)

His journey will take him near the land where Esau dwells. Basically, Jacob feels like a moving target for a man who, the last time they talked, wanted to kill him.

So Jacob sent servants ahead of him to make peace with Esau. They took major gifts to try to smooth things over. But when the servants returned, they told Jacob that Esau would not accept the gifts (Genesis 32:1-21).

Can you imagine the turmoil inside of Jacob at this point? There are so many questions that would have been going through his mind. Is Esau after me? Is his still angry? Does he want to kill me?

That night, after sending off his wives to safety, Jacob was alone. I’m sure his mind wouldn’t stop mulling over the situation with Esau.

And that’s when God came to wrestle with Jacob. The Bible says they wrestled until dawn. And then, to cap it all off, God touched Jacob’s hip and put it out of joint. God told Jacob, “Let me go, for the day has broken” (Genesis 32:26).

What? Did God ask for mercy from Jacob? Was Jacob really winning the wrestling match? I don’t think so.

God is all-powerful. A little twerp like Jacob wouldn’t stand a chance if God had wanted to destroy him. That leads me to believe that God wanted Jacob to wrestle with him. In fact, I think God wants us to wrestle with Him.

Of course, that means we have to define what we mean by “wrestling with God.” I don’t think this is a matter of two people, angry at one another trying to “duke it out” over a disagreement. Instead, it is the process of working out a situation with brutal honesty –laying everything out on the table. It is raw, open, problem solving.

I think this scene helps us see a greater reality. Remember, the context of this wrestling match is another wrestling match –with Esau. I think God is trying to show Jacob (and us) that, ultimately, we don’t wrestle with issues –we wrestle with God.

Here’s what that means: The way Jacob decides to react Esau will be a direct result of Jacob’s relationship with God. Similarly, the way you view God’s ownership of your life will impact how you steward your resources. The way you view God’s mercy upon you will impact whether you forgive your brother. The way you understand God’s providence will impact your career choice.

So when you are wrestling with any issue in life, you are really wrestling with God.

The best part of the story comes next. Jacob tells God, ““I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).

Apparently, this was exactly what God wanted because he blessed Jacob (Genesis 32:29).

The goal of wrestling with God is to cling to Him in the midst of your trial. And it is in that act of clinging to Him that He blesses you. He already knows the solution to your circumstances -He just wants to put you in a position to where you trust that He’s in control. He wants you to be completely dependent upon Him.

There’s one more thing that happened in this story. God gave Jacob a new name: Israel, which means, “struggles with God” (Genesis 32:28) –That’s not demeaning; it’s a compliment. It marks Jacob as a man who takes his issues straight to the throne and clings to the Father for resolution.

The Bible says that believers have been given a new name (Isaiah 62:2). And Romans 9:7-8 explains that all believers are a part of spiritual Israel. In other words, through Christ, you have been given the privilege of wrestling with God!

So, in conclusion, let me suggest the best wrestling move of all: The next time you are tempted to wrestle with situations and circumstances of life, cling to Christ!