The Struggle is Real, What Now? 

Left side! Strong side! Sunshine….sunshine. “Listen baby, ain’t no mountain high. Ain’t no valley low. Ain’t no river wide enough baby….” In my movie-buff opinion, Remember the Titans has to be one of the best movies of all time. From the AMAZING soundtrack, to the message about love and diversity, to the message for young girls that you can play with Barbies or a football, to the awesome football scenes themselves, I could go on…this movie is such an all-around awesome movie. It has one of the greatest friendships ever written about in Julius and Gary. But even more, what really makes it so beloved for so many I think is the struggle that takes place. One struggle after another. And it’s the struggles that make the losses so grave and the victories so triumphant.

Struggle. It’s such a funny thing isn’t it? We don’t like it. We don’t want it. We live our lives most days with one goal in mind…our own happiness. We want to be happy and comfortable and successful and etc. And there’s nothing really wrong with any of that except most times we want those things to come by themselves; free of strife and hardship and struggle. But then when we watch movies or sports games or read books what do we want? Drama! We want struggle and conflict so our characters can overcome them and get what they “deserve”…a happy ending. Or our favorite team can pull out the W.

As a sport lover, the best games are ALWAYS the ones that are close. The ones where the underdog has to come together as a team and work twice as hard as their opponents to see victory. When there’s heart and struggle involved, it either makes defeat or victory that much more heartbreaking or exciting knowing that the players left everything they had on the field or court.  As a born and bred Ohio State fan 🙂 we can see this in our 2014 team. We lost both our first string and second string quarterbacks to injuries right before we went up for our conference championship. We put in our third string quarterback who not only pulled through to win the BigTen conference championship and then the semi-final national championship game, but that year our Buckeyes went on to be the first ever Indisputable NCAA National Champions! Hollywood couldn’t have written a better Cinderella story than that but Buckeye-nation rejoiced! Not just because we had won the championships but we won out of adversity and struggle and hard work.

Moving from the football metaphors over to the reason for the article title…no I’m not coming for John Cena. But what I am doing is wrestling. Struggling and wrestling I believe go hand in hand. Struggle can be a circumstance that you must endure and/or overcome. But, it can also be a state of mind which can then be synonymous with wrestling. The last year has been full of wrestling for me; wrestling with anxiety; wrestling with my conscience; wrestling with commitments and decisions. I’m currently wrestling with a couple of decisions and as I have been praying that God would give me discernment on what paths to go I have found myself slightly frustrated. I don’t know what to do. I’m emotional about it one day and the next I’m all about the logic. I can’t seem to get a straight answer right now and it’s driving me crazy. It’s weighing heavy on my heart because my decision affects my relationships with other people and leaves me open to feeling like I’ve let them down.

And then at church on Sunday the pastor was going through his sermon and he made a comment about wrestling in life and it sparked some thoughts. Predominantly, the thought that I am in good company if my heart is wrestling with not just itself but also with God. I was reminded of Jacob from the Old Testament. What an awesome story:

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.                                                                             –Genesis 32:24-31

It says a man (who is either an angel from the Lord or God disguised as a man) wrestled–he picked the fight as it were. When he saw Jacob’s physical strength was too much, he weakened him by putting his hip out of socket! This is where Jacob’s will kicked in. Then it was the man saying “uncle”, “uncle”. But Jacob continued to wrestle and said no! I’m not going to stop until I see some good from this (in this case, a blessing). It’s at that moment that Jacob, who is physically exhausted but has the heart of lion is not only renamed Israel but is essentially given the promise of a kingdom as his great-grandson David would go on to be the king of all Israel!!

Then you have Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 who has a flippin thorn thrust into his side:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.      –2 Corinthians 12:7-10

There’s so much to take from all of this and I could go further into all these different thoughts. But when I was thinking about this concept of wrestling, God brought me these two particular stories and then the principle that we’re more engaged when struggle is involved in the story than when we just receive things willy-nilly. Both Paul and Jacob found themselves wrestling with God. Both were met with repeated pleas for relief but were not given an immediate answer.

BUT they did both eventually receive the release they were looking for and both men walked away with blessings, physical and spiritual.  Ironically (or not) both men, as they wrestled, were weakened. In Paul’s case it was so God could show himself as Paul’s true strength. Jacob almost seemed to have to have been broken physically and maybe humbled emotionally, but then his true heart kicked in and his will to persevere was being driven by something other than pride. Another key point to pay attention to was that after Jacob was blessed, it says he was still limping because of his hip.  Just because he got what he was petitioning God for didn’t mean that he was all tip top and back to normal. He still had to deal with the aftermath of what he endured.

So much meat here and not enough time to really dig into it all. But no matter what you’re wrestling with…keep seeking, keep fighting, keep wrestling. Don’t settle and don’t give in. You WILL get an outcome eventually. You WILL be humbled but will ultimately be all the better for it. All the best things in life are worth fighting for and the things in life you fight for will be your most treasured. You may not get the result you wanted, you may feel like you suffered so much pain and hurt for nothing–but I assure you it wasn’t for nothing. You’ve gained character and an opportunity to see God closer than you would have otherwise. So keep fighting. Keep struggling. Keep asking. Keep petitioning. Keep praying. Keep wrestling!

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