Wrestling with God

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There is a story in the Bible where God wrestles with Jacob (Genesis:22-32). He is alone, anxious and facing death by his brother. He has sent all of his family over to the other side of the river and there he meets a man/angel at night with whom he wrestles with. Before the match is ended Jacob demands a blessing and states that he will not let him go until he gets one. He receives a new name, not Jacob but Israel “because you have struggled with God, and with humans and have overcome.”

Recently I was unexpectedly admitted into the hospital for a surgery because of a serious infection that had developed quite rapidly. It was there that I was alone, at times praying desperate prayers of healing from an unbearable fever, prayers that a doctor would come and announce that my surgery was no longer delayed, and then prayers to be released home.

The struggles people come to in therapy are equally formidable, like a gash or a wound that ceases to heal instead of languishing in their pain or ignoring increasing symptoms someone decides to enter the battle of inner pain. They may face the taunts that were said to them earlier in life, the pain of loss or abuse, and struggle through them as they sit with a therapist. This struggle itself may bring up strong emotions, including anger, resentment that have not before been voiced.

I always wondered at the story of Jacob. How could someone have the audacity to struggle with God? How could he win? How did he know to ask for a blessing? Similarly, how do we know when is the right time to face the hurt that lingers? How do some overcome quickly and others take years to feel healing emotionally?

I recently took a course in Emotionally-Focused Therapy for Individuals. One primary thing I learned was that behind every emotion is a need- sometimes we need to ask a part of ourselves- or God for this to heal, just like the blessing that Jacob asked from God. From fear we may seek safety and reassurance. From sadness we may want comfort or love. On each of our journey I pray that we have the will to engage in the struggle through hard emotions and hard times and the courage seek the blessing that we need to heal.

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