Thursday, February 5, 2009

Win Not the Battle, but the War...

Jacob wrestles with God alone. He wrestles with him and struggles all night long until he gets what he’s after; God’s blessing. For his trouble he gets a wrenched hip because he does not know how to let go. He won’t give up regardless of the fact that he fights without assistance and protection, and is now critically and permanently injured. And he risks death because no one can see God and live--daybreak is no far away. He needs God’s blessing. For Jacob, it’s a battle not only for blessing but survival.

In this passage--one that’s literally packed with theological meaning--a true battle of the wills is waged. Brute strength, guile and spirit are all put to the test. During this entire night there must have been times when each side (Jacob and the God-Man) looked like they’d prevail, yet almost a truce was the eventual result. Neither gave in or succumbed; both won.

Battles are waged every day; in the workplace, in schools, in shopping malls, on roads, in families. These are not always good battles--quite the contrary. Often, however, there is a predominantly good force engaging with a largely evil force.

In the fight against every evil in the military battles there have been countless innocent casualties, all in the name of freedom or some other good thing worth fighting for. I find the same parallel with almost every change or development in life; it’s a struggle stage-by-stage and these struggles don’t come without the odd ‘casualty experience.’

God often comes to people during ‘the night,’ or at a precarious time in a journey, to prepare them for something bigger.[1] The tests you might be going through at the moment--the battles--might simply mean there’s something broader in view that you might not yet see. This is a test of endurance and of persisting through the inevitable failures (lost battles) so that the ultimate success can be achieved in due course.

Wars are never won easily. They’re epics and nothing less. There is no question that you have what it takes to win your own wars, but they can’t be won without enduring the various battles, which seem overwhelming at times. In this way life is a war of attrition.

The allegory of Jacob’s struggle with God illustrates the journeying nature of the spiritual life. Struggles like these are waged in the spiritual realm and no other. Tormenting experiences can’t be appropriately dealt with without the appropriate spirituality.

In all our life roles, as spouses, parents, employees, consumers, and as friends we have challenges and battles to face and ensure. Not all of these we have to win, and some or many we won’t. The point is patient, quiet, stable endurance.

The spiritual journey is thus both necessary and inevitable; a non-negotiable. Are you denying this?

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis – A Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001), p. 445. See also Genesis 32:22-32.

No comments: