Struggle with God, Acquire Lameness | Jesus’ Creed
I have been walking with “spiritual lameness” for some time now. I have been on top of a mountain in the past, have spoken face to face with God, and have been enveloped in the cloud of Christ’s presence. But I also spent long nights in the Valley. I crawled into the cave with Elijah several times and waited for God to pass or whisper in that soft little voice (1 Kings 19: 9-18) to hear nothing but my own deafening doubts and insecurities. bounce off the walls of my listen.
Such struggles might sink my ministry and lead me to sell shoes or wait on tables, but I have very good reason to believe that God wants to use my honesty about my own struggles to help others do so. facing theirs. I am writing letters to my church this year as part of my thesis project at Northern Seminary. I hope they will be a little encouragement to others as they continue to walk with God through their own hills and valleys in these uncertain times.
The strange truth is that God cannot use you unless you are broken. Yes, it is often true that “hurting people hurts others”, but it is equally true that “people give thanks to others” and “people who are healed heal others”.
One of the most broken and imperfect men in the Bible is Jacob. In a strange story found in Genesis 32: 24-28, we find Jacob alone in a desert where he ends up struggling with a dark figure all night until dawn. Here is the scene:
“So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until dawn. When the man saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he hit the socket of his hip so that the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated while he was wrestling with him. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” “I won’t let you go,” Jacob replied, “unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” He answered, “Jacob.” “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” said the man to him, but Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with men. and whom you have overcome ”(Genesis 32: 24-28).
After this marathon struggle with God, Jacob was renamed “Israel” (meaning “one who struggles with God”). O, the audacity of Jacob to strive with God, to resist God, to stand before God and to say defiantly: “I will not let you go until you bless me as you promised. . After such bold behavior, God did not put Jacob in his place with a slap on the wrist as one would expect. In fact, he rewarded his fiery perseverance by giving it a new name – a new identity!
What is the sign that one has been touched and blessed by an encounter with the living God? Do they have a big house, a lot of wealth, and an easy, carefree life? No! The telltale sign that someone has come close to the awesome presence of God is often the following: They walk with a spiritual limp.
They got scars from screaming all night with God. They have a standoff with God in the silence of the seeming absence of God. They clung to God and refused to let go even when the presence of God sometimes seemed to bring more pain than comfort. They know that, contrary to popular belief, Jesus was right when he said, “Happy are those who mourn; it is they who will be comforted. (I dare say the opposite is also true: sad are those who refuse to cry and face inner pain because they keep the comfort of God at bay.)
I fear that many of us mistakenly think that God wants timid and polite disciples who aim to please and appease God; people who walk on eggshells around Him, trying to lower their voices, do the right thing, and keep our fears, doubts, disappointments and frustrations to ourselves. We believe that struggling with God is a sign of spiritual weakness and immaturity.
Yet I think God wants fiery disciples who are not afraid to “struggle” with Him and struggle aloud with our faith and doubts. This is the kind of faith we see displayed in the Psalms as David makes his praises and frustrations known to God.
I’m afraid we often prefer a quaint, polite faith that keeps the wild and unpredictable God at bay. We put it in a box, put a lid and keep it on a shelf at our disposal. I fear that we live in a time of sanitized and secure Christianity in America, and that we miss the real adventure of obedience that extends the faith that calls us into the night, to fight our doubts and fears until earth, to meet God under the stars.
The Bible invites us to embrace a heartwarming mark of faith that leaves us breathless and hurt, as long-held cultural beliefs and values are sometimes swept away by a sermon that reveals the radical and counter-cultural teachings of Jesus and his kingdom.
Sadly, many churches in America promise a gospel that comes with no pain or pain. Many pastors promise people they can have Jesus and the American dream, and we can place our hopes for the future in God and the government. But I say the Kingdom belongs to all of us, overwhelming, who constantly find ourselves actively struggling with our faith, struggling with God, and struggling with what it means to be a self-sacrificing disciple of the Savior in a self-indulgent culture.
May we strive to be “God fighters” and “pain invaders” in a culture of “God soothing” and “pain avoiders”. May pastors and church leaders invite people to the “mat” to wrestle with God with openness, honesty, and courageous vulnerability. Only those who are prepared to wrestle with the shadows in the night will truly grow in God and find true spiritual freedom on the other side of polite, delicate, and over-sanitized American Christianity. “No pain, no gain” is just as true in spiritual training as it is in physical training.
I want to be a limp pastor and I want to lead a community of people who would rather be uncomfortable in the awesome presence of God than comfortable in our own self-taught world where the presence of Jesus is kept safely at a distance.
One of the greatest lessons Christianity teaches is that there is no shame in being broken and in need. True courage and true strength is not self-taught independence and self-sufficiency, but a willingness to admit our need for God’s help and to live in childlike dependence on Him. Much like parenthood, after teaching our children how to walk upright, an even more important lesson is teaching them to fall gracefully into God in order to be picked up again, perhaps now with their own sacred limp.
Let’s follow Jacob’s example, hold on to God, don’t let go, and let these nightly battles with God be an indicator that our faith is alive and that God is with us in the darkest wilderness. May God give us each a new name and a new identity: You are a Christian, the one who struggles with God.
MainStreet Alliance Church