As I listened to a sermon online Sunday, the pastor said something like “if you wrestle a pig in the mud, you will get dirty, but the pig will love it.” Pigs indeed love the mud! Wrestling with pigs is always a losing proposition. Not only will you get filthy dirty, but the smell is worse than anything else I can think of. (This farm girl knows. Spring chores included cleaning all the nasty bedding out of the shed where pigs could get out of the weather.) When we wrestle with pigs, we come out really stinking!
I started thinking about what Scripture says about wrestling. Wrestling and struggling. Are we supposed to be wrestling? If you are on FaceBook, you see ugly and hateful wrestling daily this year. Does that make all wrestling wrong? What does Scripture say about wrestling? I discovered Scripture thoughtfully guides us about how and where to wrestle. I concluded we were made for this, but we need to know how to use this gift.
8 Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won!” So she named him Naphtali [My Struggle]. Genesis 30:8 (GW)
Jacob was pledged beautiful Rachel in marriage but Laban gave him plain Leah first. The competition began. (I talk more about these two in my book, God Heals Broken Hearts.) Leah was able to bear children while Rachel could not. The comparison and competition between them rivaled the worst sibling rivalry. Bribery and cruel jabs at each other. It was really rooted in jealousy and twisting the reality of how God saw each of them. Did all this impact the relationships in Jacob’s family? Perhaps it is the real reason the older brothers were willing to sell Joseph into slavery.
As we look around us right now, may we keep our eyes on who God says we are so we are helped to avoid this wrestling that is so destructive in our relationships as well.
Jacob wrestles with the angel
22 During that night he got up and gathered his two wives, his two slaves and his eleven children and crossed at the shallow part of the Jabbok River. 23 After he sent them across the stream, he sent everything else across. 24 So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until dawn. 25 When the man saw that he could not win against Jacob, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that it was dislocated as they wrestled. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go; it’s almost dawn.” But Jacob answered, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” 27 So the man asked him, “What’s your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob but Israel [He Struggles With God], because you have struggled with God and with men—and you have won.” Genesis 32:22-28 (GW)
Jacob had sent his family off to other areas as he prepared for the last bit of his journey from Laban’s home to the promised land. Esau had threatened to kill him and he was terrified. Nevertheless, he persisted in the battle. A battle that ultimately changed who he was. The angel asked his name: Jacob. Immediately it was no longer Jacob, the deceiver, but Israel, one who struggles with God and prevails.
The process of being transformed into the image of God is not for the faint of heart. We struggle to stay focused on what God says about us, but we can prevail! Little by little, we are changed back into the identity God always had for us.
Who we really need to wrestle
12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. Ephesians 6:12 (AMP)
We easily engage in battles with siblings, friends, fellow Christians, co-workers, and about anyone else we encounter. But the real issue? We’re all struggling to become who God formed us to be; it’s really Satan’s condemning, shaming, deceiving voice that we all battle. He’s be at it since the Garden of Eden and isn’t going to stop. (photo from goodfreephotos.com)
I’m trying to practice taking a breath and praying for someone out of God’s love before I go off half-cocked. My first struggle is always with what Satan has been saying to me.
When we battle spiritual forces, we can win if we fight from what Jesus accomplished for us. He defeated Satan’s works (1 John 3:8) and gave us authority over all his authority (the real meaning of “exousia” in Luke 10:19).
Praying is wrestling
12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Colossians 4:12 (NIV)
I’m realizing God urgently desires that we wrestle in prayer for each other rather than wrestle on FaceBook in an effort to prove our own points and establish our own agendas. I have changes to make in this area, too.
God wants us all to mature and be fully assured of the beauty of God’s plan for each of us. “Wrestling” in this verse is the Greek word, “agonizomai.” Does that sound like agonizing to you? May we agonize for the God-beauty of others rather than angrily tearing at each other.
The real blessing for wrestling FOR each other
2 I wish you could know how much I have struggled for you and for the church in Laodicea, and for the many other friends I’ve yet to meet. I am contending for you that your hearts will be wrapped in the comfort of heaven and woven together into love’s fabric. This will give you access to all the riches of God as you experience the revelation of God’s great mystery—Christ. 3 For our spiritual wealth is in him, like hidden treasure waiting to be discovered—heaven’s wisdom and endless riches of revelation knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 (TPT)
I’m slowly realizing how much I lose by wrestling against others. How would agonizing or wrestling FOR others be much more helpful to all of us, especially in 2020?
The Passion Translation captures it well. We will begin to experience that our real wealth is spiritual, a wealth in Christ like a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. It will be so worth it to find heaven’s wisdom in 2020.
- Our real wrestling is with spiritual forces; we win because Christ has won on our behalf.
- Transformation is a struggle for all of us but, as we wrestle with God in prayer, He shows us who He really formed us to be.
- Wrestling with each other in jealous competition is destructive but, as we wrestle for each other, we will all discover that our real spiritual wealth is in Christ as a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered.
I’m praying we all begin to pray for each other, for our families and our pastors. Lets discover the wisdom of heaven for 2020.
Carol Boggess, author and speaker at A Healing Journey
Carol Boggess © 2020
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts
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