When you become a Christian—when you turn away from your sins, when you believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, when you decide to live for Him—you're not offered a perfect life. You're not even offered a life of pure happiness. But you are offered an eternal life that makes this one completely pale in comparison. This eternal life with Jesus where there's no sin, no shame, no fear, no pain. No worry and anxiety. No health issues, no relational strife, no homelessness or poverty.
Until we reach heaven with Christ, or until He comes again, we will experience suffering on this earth. We will have hurts. Becoming a believer doesn't mean you will make lots of money, have the perfect family you've always envisioned, kill it in your career, or never deal with mental or physical health problems. A lot of popular authors, speakers, and even ministers today would have you think that. But if we look to God's Word, we see that actually, becoming a believer frees us from all those things. It means we'll face hardship but can walk through it with Christ on our side. It means we have hope beyond the mess of this world. It means when things feel hopeless or out-of-control, we can know God has got this all. We can be assured that our life doesn't end when our heart stops beating because we know we're joining Jesus in His Kingdom for eternity.
Don't just take it from me; take it from God’s Word.
God wants all to believe in Him and have eternal life.
As we go through life here on earth, we'll wrestle with God. There will be moments of doubt, confusion, distrust. There may be entire seasons of these feelings.
And God may also use difficulties to draw you to Himself and to make you more like Christ.
I read Genesis 32 this past week, and it was as if I read it for the first time. A little background: Jacob, grandson of Abraham, son of Isaac, and father of Joseph, is preparing to meet his estranged brother, Esau. Jacob and his family are about to encounter Esau and his entire army. We're talking hundreds of men. Jacob has plenty of animals, but he's not at all ready for this. The night before he sees his brother, Jacob wrestles with God:
Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not defeat him, he struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip. Then he said to Jacob, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
“What is your name?” the man asked.
“Jacob,” he replied.
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” he said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.”
But he answered, “Why do you ask my name?” And he blessed him there.
Jacob then named the place Peniel, “For I have seen God face to face,” he said, “yet my life has been spared.” The sun shone on him as he passed by Penuel—limping because of his hip. That is why, still today, the Israelites don’t eat the thigh muscle that is at the hip socket: because he struck Jacob’s hip socket at the thigh muscle.
The passage is mysterious, to say the least. The notes in my study bible say that we know the man is a messenger from God. If this man was able to dislocate Jacob's hip, he could have clearly defeated him at any point. Yet Jacob wrestled with him all night. Why? What was the point? Jacob wrestled, he struggled, and he went through strife. Sometimes that's what the Christian life looks like. We wrestle with God.
God does not want us to suffer. Let that be clear. God isn't sitting up on a cloud like Zeus, throwing lightning bolts down to strike us and knock us out. We know that God is good. He is faithful. And he works all things for His glory.
His glory, not ours.
Sometimes God allows us to suffer, and He allows us to wrestle with Him, so that He is ultimately glorified. So that we trust Him, serve Him wholeheartedly, and recognize that our true satisfaction is only found in Him. Wrestling with God reminds us of our need for Him and can prompt us to desire to be more like Him each day.
Take Jacob, for example. He walked away at daybreak, limping because of his hip. He was left with a physical reminder of his wrestling—he would forever be marked by that experience.
As I read Jacob’s story, I thought about myself. I can relate to him; I know the pain of intense struggle. I’ve walked through mental illness and seasons of great darkness. And I know now that God used that time for His glory. God took that pain and that hurt, and He opened my eyes to who He is. Because of what I went through, I was marked by God. He saved me physically and spiritually, and He opened my eyes to what life looks like when you have a hope beyond this world. No, it isn’t perfect. But praise Jesus, as believers, we have the assurance of spending eternity in His Kingdom!
If you are wrestling, keep wrestling. Dig into the Word. Cry out to God. Let him search your heart!
Pray that He would help your unbelief. Keep running to the Lord. Ask Him to put on your heart the things that matter to Him. Pray for healing and restoration. He has got this, and He is working all things in your life to put His glory on display.
If you want to talk more about Jesus Christ and faith and what-the-heck-is-all-this-stuff, shoot me a message. I love meeting new people, whether virtually or in person, and gabbing about life.
And if you'd like to know more of my story, you can read my testimony here.
Truly, He makes beautiful things.