“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Genesis 32:28 (NLT)
Imagine wrestling with God. And winning! What does that mean? Jacob found out and he was never the same.
We may never physically wrestle with an angel, but we have plenty of opportunities to wrestle through emotional, psychological, and spiritual battles and win. We all come face-to-face with questions, temptations, and struggles that seem to overwhelm us. The outcome of our lives depends upon the results of those struggles.
The name “Jacob” means “supplanter” or “one who takes.” “Israel” means “having power with God.” Before Jacob could experience all that God desired to do through him, he had to find out who he was. He had lived in deceit, denial, and trickery. God finally had to bring him to the end of himself in a high-stakes battle. Only then could he be transformed from a trickster to a mighty man of God.
We all have defining moments when we find out what we are made of. Because God relentlessly pursues our good, He allows us to come to the end of ourselves, where we are forced to admit who we’ve become. When we wrestle through those “dark nights of the soul” and come out victorious, we have greater power with God. By wrestling through doubt, despair, temptation, and heartache, we learn to know God better. Emptied of our old selfish strongholds, we are then fit to be named with the name He chose for us when He created us.
Have you wrestled with God? If you’ve experienced the “dark night of the soul,” you know it. If you haven’t yet, you will. Jacob shows us the reward when we don’t give up, but pursue God with abandon. When we refuse to turn away or give in to despair, He renames us. We are no longer defined by our sin, but by our new intimate relationship with Him..