22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon. Genesis 32:22-32
Struggling is not something that most American Christians like to discuss. Far too often we are more interested in a therapeutic faith that seeks to anesthetize pain and shrug off any need to persevere and “hold onto” the Lord. Much more than that though, we forget that God uses problems and sufferings to correct our course and teach us that reliance on Him is more important than even our life or health.
This passage of Scripture is so helpful in understanding this concept. Jacob is the chosen one over Esau, and yet he is marked for much of his life with that name Jacob which means “deceiver” and so that is the way that he survives and indeed thrives. He is far from perfect, and yet there are times where his faith is evident. He has encounters with the God of his fathers, still his life is filled with struggle even from the womb, through his rivalry with Esau, his dealings with Laban, and now with the God-man. But it is this final struggle that allows him to realize the fuller blessing of God’s promise. For Christians today, we should look to Jesus Christ who struggled against men and with the Father and prevailed. We need to be willing to also struggle against the world (Romans 12:2) and cling to God for His blessing. That doesn’t mean we should expect to come out of our struggles unscathed; in fact we may limp our whole lives as Jacob did. God will, however, renew our identity in Him and we will be marked and redeemed by His grace in the middle of the struggle.