Formations 08.02.2020: Wrestling with God

Genesis 32:22-31

Have you ever wrestled with God? I know I have. Lately, the struggle goes something like this:

God, please help. I’m overwhelmed. My loved one is hurting, and I don’t know what to do.

God? Can’t you see that the whole world is falling apart? People are suffering. Other people are violent. We need strong leadership. We’re dealing with a pandemic and racial protests…sexual misconduct and mixed messages and election interference…social distancing and arguments about wearing masks…people dying alone. Are you listening?

Hey, God. I can’t sleep. My heart is racing and my stomach is churning. Do something, please!

Does any of this sound familiar? For me, the struggle sometimes feels one-sided. It’s like God isn’t even trying. Like God isn’t engaged with me at all. Like I’m in a fight with myself. And guess what? I’m losing badly.

It’s discouraging. It’s also tempting to give up, to stop talking into the dark space above my head as I lie in bed at night, to quit offering words to God throughout the day, to accept what seems like complete silence as proof that there is no God listening.

But when I read this Scripture, I picture Jacob there by the Jabbok, standing on the shore as darkness falls. His huge family is on the other side of the stream. Babies are nursing, kids are protesting bedtime, and mothers are weary. Jacob has withdrawn from it all for a moment because he needs to wrestle with God. He is struggling because he knows he has failed. He knows what he deserves for his trickery. Soon he will encounter his estranged brother Esau, and Jacob understands that his brother will make him pay for what he has done.

So Jacob stands alone on the shore and ends up wrestling with “a man” all night long, only to discover when the sun comes up that he has “seen God face to face” and survived (v. 30). We can learn much from Jacob’s determination not to give up the struggle until he hears and feels something from God.

We all feel alone sometimes. When this happens, let’s try to keep up the struggle until we hear from God. Let’s trust that God is always ready to engage with us, even if it’s in a different way than we imagined. Let’s wrestle for as long as it takes.


  • When do you need to withdraw from the regular pattern of your life so that you can hear from God?
  • Does God often speak to you? If so, how?
  • Do you sometimes feel that God is silent? If so, what do you do in such times?
  • How do you interpret Jacob’s stubbornness in this story? Is this how we are to approach God?
  • What makes it so hard to hear God sometimes? Why do you think it’s important to keep up the struggle until we hear from God?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.


For further resources, subscribe to the Formations Teaching Guide and Commentary. Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email