I am what you would call “churched”. I grew up knowing all the right answers and phrases. I know about God and what the Bible says about God. Knowing is one thing, experiencing is another. Somewhere in my life I encountered God. I truly experienced Him! I believe this is what made the biggest difference between my siblings and myself. We all learned the right answers but our experience with God was different. At this point in time, I am the only one of four who believes in God and has an active relationship with Him, although in some ways I would say they are more real with God than I am!
Despite this experience and a deep knowing that He is real and active in the world, I still struggle with believing what I know about God. For example, God is good all the time. People say this phrase often. We have Romans 8:28 telling us that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. However, I am in a season in my life where I have no idea what God is doing and I certainly don’t see how it is “good”. I know all the proper things to say including verses so I definitely know how to save my spiritual face! What I need right now is not the right words or to prove to everyone that I am spiritual but to wrestle with God about a few things!
Interestingly enough, actually physically wrestling with God has happened in the Bible. In Genesis 32, Jacob was definitely facing some uncertainty in his life. Leaving his father-in-law in less than pleasant circumstances and then going to face his brother not knowing whether his brother would want to kill him or not. That night Jacob encountered the Lord. For the longest time (and even now) I was unsure why they were fighting… all night at that! Nevertheless the Lord allowed it. Why?
Facing too many uncertainties in my life, the only thing I want is to battle with God. I would ask what Jeremiah asked “why do the wicked prosper?” It is so unfair! To try so hard to do right only to feel like there was no point. I have felt for a long time that the enemy has had more control over life circumstances than God has. While no one wants to kill me, there is certainly pain and circumstances in my life that are out of my control.
I mention control because like my inability to rely on other people, I also have the inability to rely on God. Although I would treat that in reverse. Because I do not rely God, I do not rely people. Maybe what isn’t terribly obvious is that our tendencies in real life with people is firstly our tendency with God. We can cover up our relationship with God with the right words in order to appear spiritual but how we are with other people directly correlates with our relationship with God. I can give plenty of examples in my life right now of how that works. Recently, I have been picking fights with people. Each time I thought they had majorly wronged me or that I was doing them a favour by pointing out some things! But in all honesty who I really have a quarrel with is God. That is who I really want to battle with!
Years in church has taught me to cover up any issues I had with how God does things. The reality is that I am not ok with what is happening in my life. To have a living real relationship with God doesn’t mean it is all rosy! It means that if there is one person that can handle a battle with me it is my God and Saviour! Jeremiah did battle with Him through words and questions, Jacob physically did battle with Him, and Elijah did battle by running away (which would be more my style!). God was not afraid of the battle, but met with them! Elijah was hiding in a mountain when God came to him. He didn’t come to him in some mighty force (although He certainly did show him those too!). He came in a still, small voice and asked “what are you doing here, Elijah?” This makes me laugh! Like God didn’t already know!! But I am thankful that God lets us tell Him anyway what is wrong.
What I would tell you is that battling with God is ok and He can handle it. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ means having access to God in the most personal way – including all the good, the bad and the ugly. What I would say if you recognise someone else in this is to not smooth things over for them but allow God to show them who He is.
There is usually something specific that people are battling with. Something that is only meant between them and God. When Jesus called Nathanael in John 1:48, all He said was “when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”. We have no way of knowing what happened under the fig tree but it meant something to both Jesus and Nathaniel. We do our part as the body of Christ but God is the only one who can battle with the heart.