For many, God is an impersonal concept. It doesn’t help that cultural connotations made him feel old, archaic, out of touch. But for those of us who have experienced him deeply and know his dynamic love, we understand that he’s personal and with us. We speak to him through prayer – we even plea with him, bargain with him, and wrestle with him.
Even if you’ve never struggled with God, you probably understand the idea of struggling with something that’s occupying your mind. At the risk of turning this into an OreGairu blog (I can’t help it – this show is so relatable), I’m going to use another Hikigaya example. Before Hikki gives his “something genuine” speech, a wall of words that makes him more vulnerable than he’s ever been, he struggles with the anticipation. Although he ultimately says what he intends to, it’s a trying experience for him. Afterward, Hikki is restless on the couch, wrestling with himself physically and in his mind. It’s almost a follow-up meeting, where he’s deciding whether it was worth it to do what was right. There’s a fight there between what comes easy to Hikki, what we would normally do and what he did do, what he should do.
Sometimes, when things are going wrong or when anxiety grips me regarding a situation, I wrestle with God. I fight him in my mind, rejecting the path the Holy Spirit is leading me on, the path I’m convicted to take, because it’s too scary, too hard, too tough.
Thousands of years ago, a man literally wrestled with God. Jacob, the deceiver, is about to encounter his brother, Esau, who when we met him last in Genesis, wanted to murder Jacob for stealing his birthright. Jacob must have been filled with dread and hopelessness when he encountered God.
I’ve felt that dread before, too. Though I’ve never been on the edge of death, I’ve committed criminal acts that I thought I might go to jail for. I’ve caused pain to my family that I didn’t think I could repair. I’ve been in low places where I considered death a better alternative than life. How can I be in a place like this, God? How could I do such things? How can I face loved ones that I’ve hurt? How can I go on?
In the most painful times, God is there. He often reminds us through the pain (or in the pain or after the pain) that he is near, and that we need him desperately because we make a mess of things when left to our own devices. In the madness, he meets us face to face, speaking the words we need through the Spirit, friends, or the word; giving us comfort when nothing else can; showing us how we’ve been pushing him away, when all he wants is to draw near to us. Even in silence he speaks to us, telling us that we need more of him and less of us.
In the struggles – sometimes against God, sometimes with him – I’ve often found the way to go. I’ve often learned what I need to do, and when I’m listening, when I’m wise, I go down the path God has laid before me, eschewing the one I’ve carved out on my own. I let him strip away my preconceptions, my worldview, my ignorance, and clothe me with his grace and kindness. And often I find that I’ve grown up a little, grown stronger, grown to understand that when I fall, and when I fall hard, he will lift me up.
Wrestling with God is for my benefit – he wrestles away all that keeps me pinned to the ground, and lifts me up to heights I can’t reach on my own, to a place I want to be. As with Hikki fighting his own desires, it takes discomfort and even pain to get there, but the destination, the outcome, is far better than what we leave behind.