Growing up in Oklahoma, my sport of choice was wrestling. I was fortunate to have a very good coach; one who conditioned us physically, instructed us on the strategies of a match, and also mentored us in life. He taught us how to conduct ourselves before, during, and after a match. It was required of us to wear a sport coat and tie to tournaments. This was old-school but it worked. Somehow it gave us a mental edge over our opponents. I was so proud to be a part of the wrestling team. It gave me my identity at a young and impressionable age.
We trained hard. In the miserably cold winter, we would turn the gas heater up and rig it so it would not turn off. We wore multiple layers of sweats to train in. We punished our bodies beyond what modern wisdom would recommend. Until one day, one of our teammates became sick. Pneumonia set in and he died.
Our beloved coach resigned. He left coaching. He left the school. He faded away into obscurity, hiding behind the shame of blame. The team never recovered.
Everything changed that year. We couldn’t get our fight back.
The Bible gives us an example of a man who tried to run from the fight. Jacob grew up in a hostile fraternity. He wrestled with his brother, Esau. In the womb, nations wrestled. When the twins were delivered, Jacob grasped the heel of Esau. As a young man, Jacob couldn’t get the attention of his father. So, he began to manipulate his circumstances. With the help of his mother, he outwitted his brother for the right of first-born inheritance. He wrestled everyday to get somewhere and to be someone.
“And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” Genesis 32:24
Jacob’s story is the account of man and you are in the same situation. You are alone and wrestling with God. God deals with man… alone. It is in the moments of isolation where you will find your fight. God won’t deal with you in the group sitting. He doesn’t address the fraternity, the team, the union, or societies; God wrestles one on one.
This is when you begin to dig deep into the issues of authenticity.
This is when you shake off your vanities and ideologies, and get down into the grasp of someone stronger and more powerful than you ever dreamed of getting a hold of.
When I was a young man, I found myself in a unique station in life. I had a beautiful wife, three young children, cars, clothes, and a cottage. I had reached a level of success that surprised me. And I was so, so… depressed.
There was no reason for it. It haunted me at night. The spirit of depression surrounded me. It was more than having a bad day — it was a cloud of darkness.
One night as I tossed and turned, I finally went outside, laid in a hammock, and looking up into the sky I prayed, “God can you please do something to help me?”
I wanted — craved — the soothing caress of a loving Father, but I got a surprise. God spoke to me saying, “Neil, get up. Get your fight back!”
Proverbs says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” God wrestled with me. Pushed me. Challenged me. He fought with me that night. Every move I tried on Him, he countered with a more strategic blow.
It was simply awesome. I found myself intimate with God by wrestling with Him. I discovered His blessing that night. We are close. We wrestled.
Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
God comes to a man alone.
He comes to pick a fight.
God comes to push you until you respond.
He will challenge your manhood.
He will grab you, toss you around — playing, teasing, until you finally respond.
Until you finally grab Him and say, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
I challenge you right now. Grab hold of God. Grab hold of His promises. Grab hold of the life you crave. Grab hold and don’t let go.