Is It Okay to Wrestle with God?

As a young child, I was an expert in throwing temper tantrums.  My mom should have been sainted for having to handle me in those years.  I could be incredibly difficult. Yelling, screaming, physically destructive, and emotionally hurtful to those around me.  

Looking back, I don’t think that I had an ability to properly express my feelings, so I just threw a tantrum.  Unlike our earthly parents, God knows exactly how we feel whether we express it or not.

There are times in life when things aren’t going the way we think they should.  We know that God is there and working in our life. We may even be in a place to worship Him and pray, but there is a disconnect.  We have a hurt or struggle with Him that we’re not even sure how to identify, let alone how to express. What do we do then?

We know that God is a Good Father, that He is holy and worthy of our worship and honor.  We generally approach Him with the respect that He deserves. And then there are those times when we just want to scream at Him.  Is this allowed? Will He strike us with lightning if we let loose?

To scream or be silent?

God is able to smite us, but He doesn’t.  He is big enough to handle our tantrums. I think He even prefers that we scream at Him instead of being silent and ignoring Him.

When my kids were young, we would have those days.  I remember having to wrap my arms and legs around them as they kicked and screamed.  Holding them with all the love that I had until they would settle down. It may have seemed like I was being mean, but I was actually protecting them from hurting themself or others.  

This may sound weird, but now that my kids are adults, I would rather they yell and scream then to be silent and avoid me.  Because I value our relationship, I still want to be engaged with them even in the hard times. God also wants us to interact with Him, even when we are struggling with things in our life or with Him.

Biblical examples

Jacob wrestled with God (or an angel, it’s unclear) through the night (Genesis 32:22-32).  Job wrestled with God but kept his integrity (Book of Job). Jesus wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39-42).

Each example is different, but they all have some things in common.  The men came into conflict with the Almighty God. They did not curse God, but they did question Him.  Each was willing to submit to God’s plan after the time of wrestling. In the end, each was blessed by God.  When we wrestle with God, we will be changed by the experience.

Free Will

Do you ever wonder why God, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, would give us free-will?  Think about it. He knew that we would goof things up. He knew that we wouldn’t get it right every time.  Yet, He still gives us the freedom to choose.

I know that I like to have control in my life, so it’s nice to have free-will for myself.  Sometimes, I like to have control in the lives of others around me, even though in reality I have very little, if any, ability to control another.  

I think that God gave us free-will because He wants to walk in relationship with us.  If He just dictated everything or we didn’t have the ability to choose, that wouldn’t be much of a relationship.  Respect given freely is better than given out of fear. The love that I receive from my wife and kids is so much sweeter knowing that they have made the choice to love me (even with all my faults).  God enjoys our praise, love, and adoration more when given out of our choosing then if we give out of fear or obligation.

Our Will

In most situations that we claim to be wrestling with God, the reality is that we are wrestling with our own will.  As followers of Christ, we are new creations with old habits and thought patterns. We struggle with our fallen human nature as we strive to be Christ-like.  Paul describes this battle in Romans 7:15. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

We must change the focus of our thoughts.  It is easy to think according to the flesh but that will lead to death.  We must crucify our own will and way of thinking and put on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).  It is only through Christ that we will be able to live in peace.

Is it okay?

Is it okay to wrestle with God?  I think so. In my hurt, anger, disappointment, frustration, or whatever other time that I’ve yelled and screamed at God, He has always responded with love beyond measure.  I have been changed through my times of wrestling with Him. And ultimately, as I become more like Christ, He blesses me beyond anything that I could ever deserve.

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