- WRESTLING with God in the Coronavirus
- God Can Handle Your CORONAVIRUS Anger
Genesis 21 records Jacob wrestling with a “man” until his opponent agreed to bless him. At daybreak, the adversary relented and blessed Jacob, changing his name to Israel. Dennis Prager says Israel means to struggle with God. “God assumes—even expects—those who believe in Him to struggle with Him.”
This is an amazing insight. In all my years of study, I had never understood that the name of God’s chosen people, Israel, means to “struggle with God.”
The stranger refuses to identify himself, saying instead “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome,” (Gen 32:28 NIV). Jacob, realizing the identity of his “opponent,” names the place Penuel – פְּנוּאֵל “the face of God” or “facing God.” This was one of those encounters when God stood face-to-face before a man. A mere human being grapples with God and prevails.
Moses also wrestled with God
Exodus 32 records a similar story. God threatens to destroy the Hebrew people for their sin and Moses verbally grapples with Him.
But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. Exodus 32:11-14
Moses wrestled with God, and, like Jacob, prevailed. God withheld His punishment.
You were made to engage honestly with God
We are made imago Dei. We are neither dumb animals nor mechanical robots, as moderns so often contend. We were made like God, to think, reason, and ask difficult questions, including “If God is good, why are we faced with the Wuhan virus?” or “Why would a good God let my grandson die?” We are made to engage with God, to grapple with him in the hard days and difficult issues. Prager writes,
God was not only giving people permission to struggle with Him; He was actually asking us to. Doing so makes our faith authentic. And it is that authenticity which keeps us from turning into religious automatons.
The text begins by saying that Jacob was wrestling with a man. At the end, Jacob identifies his opponent as El, one of the Hebrew names for God. The theological term for this is a “theophany,” God appearing in human form. Did the Spirit of God manifest Himself in human form? Was this a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ? We do not know. What we do know was that a man wrestled with God and prevailed!
What does this tell us about what it means to be human?
Hope in the struggle
In the face of the Coronavirus, or any natural or man-made evil, do not be afraid to ask the hard questions. Do not be afraid to wrestle with God. You may not receive the answer you want. We did not when our grandson Alex died. Yet in the midst of the struggle, there is hope. Here are two examples that provide us with hope.
Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
How do we find the silver lining in the midst of the dark clouds of the storm? James tells us to find joy in the midst of the trials. How can we find joy? Because the trials lead to something good. Notice the progression:
- the testing of your faith produces steadfastness
- let steadfastness have its full effect
- that you may be perfect and complete
- lacking in nothing
Growth comes from difficulty, not from ease
It is the classroom of trials that matures us, growing us to become all God intends us to be. If you have prayed to be more like Christ, your prayers will be answered in the difficult times, not the pleasant times.
Paul offers a similar perspective about the need of pressing forward to fulfill our calling in Christ Jesus.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:12-14
So in the midst of this global pandemic, do not lose faith or hope. Do not hide from your questions and doubts. Be real, be a spiritual descendant of Israel, wrestle with God. He is waiting to hear from you!
- Darrow Miller
 Prager, Dennis. The Rational Bible: Genesis . Regnery Faith. Kindle Edition.