I am not sure what Jacob’s plan was that night, but I doubt it turned out the way he expected. He was stressed and anxious, of that there is no doubt. On his way to meet his brother, Esau, the one he had swindled years earlier, reports reached him that Esau was coming towards him with four hundred men.
Jacob sent some generous gifts on ahead with his servants to hopefully appease Esau. He took his two wives and 11 children across the river for safety. Now he found himself all alone, at night, just waiting for what was next. Then, we are told, ‘a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.’ (see Genesis 32)
There are times in our lives when God orchestrates events so that he can get us alone, for time just with Him. He wants us separated from the things that give us identity or meaning (family, riches, or a job). He wants us alone to wrestle with him and face the facts about our life, choices, activities, behavior or our spiritual condition. In the end, the encounter was Jacob’s new birth, his receiving of a new name. It was painful, but it was also a new beginning.
Not all of our struggles come from wrestling with God. But there are times when we need to recognize that perhaps the Lord has put us in a situation so we can face up to issues needing to be dealt with. Jacob had to come to that place and often we do as well. The struggle is real, and the sooner we recognize God’s role in it, the sooner we can rest. We shouldn’t fear those encounters when we wrestle with God but recognize them as a gift that could just possibly lead to something new.