The Man of God: Jacob—Wrestle Through Pain


What do you do in tough times? This is an important measure of a man. The Bible’s verdict is clear: “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10).

Toughness is a defining virtue. A man must be tough. As Rudyard Kipling put it, you must build the capacity to “force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone.”

God wants to build that toughness in you, but He requires that you chase it down. His esteem for this quality is evident in many biblical examples. Perhaps the starkest is that of Jacob, who literally wrestled God Himself.

The details in Scripture are scant, but it is clear that Jacob found himself in a midnight grappling match that lasted into the morning (Genesis 32:24). Wrestling even a few minutes is exhausting; this contest apparently lasted for hours! At last, this man—who was actually a God Being manifested in the flesh—put Jacob’s thigh out of joint (verse 25). Yet as painful as his injury was, somehow Jacob summoned the will to keep fighting!

Imagine wrestling with your hip out of joint! What Jacob did here demonstrated incredible tenacity and toughness!

Consider the fact that God deliberately threw out Jacob’s hip, and then kept wrestling with him. Clearly He wanted to measure Jacob’s character.

Finally this divine Being said, “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” Jacob’s response revealed his recognition of and respect for the superiority of his sparring partner. It also showed the full measure of his own resilience and grit: “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (verse 26).

This quality in Jacob deeply impressed God. And it was this quality for which God renamed him Israel. This name means prince of God, or striver with God: “for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (verse 28).

What a vivid picture of the toughness required to be part of spiritual Israel! God’s people must be contenders, strivers—individuals who will drive themselves to struggle and fight as long as is necessary to attain victory. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12; English Standard Version).

God tested Jacob’s endurance and conquering spirit to its limit—and He is testing ours as well. At times, our trials can become quite grievous. We are grappling with an adversary, and then, just as it seems we are at our breaking point, our hip goes out of joint. Circumstances may seem overwhelming, impossibly demanding and painful. At those times we naturally want to quit and be left alone to tend to our wounds and injuries.

Yet God demands that we keep fighting! We must stay engaged and continue to wrestle—with unexpected conflicts, with protracted fatigue setting in, with a hip out of joint. He wants to know how bad we want victory.

In your trials, draw on God’s power and call upon His help—absolutely. But also consider it an opportunity to be like Jacob, and maintain a dauntless determination in the face of that adversity to never give in, to never faint, to fight and even to “struggle with God” for the victory.

Develop the toughness, the manliness, the princeliness, of Jacob, the spirit that will say—no matter the odds or the pain—“I will not let you go until you bless me”!