Wrestle With God

I’m so excited I’m not sure where to begin. I wrote last week about “submit and surrender.” I mentioned that I was going to talk to Hebrew speaking friends to get their thoughts because the word “surrender” isn’t really in the Bible.

What I wrote last week is that “surrender is a willingness to give something up.” There is that element and concept in the Bible, yes, but as I have done a deeper study, I’m moving away from the idea of “surrendering to God.”

It started when I realized again (I had heard it before but it never truly resonated with me) that when Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” it is because he “wrestled with God.” That is the meaning of Israel – “wrestle with God.” Therefore, because I believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), I need to understand what it means to “wrestle with God.”

My thoughts are going a mile a minute, but I was just talking to a friend and pieces are coming together. So, all I can do is start typing and pray that Holy Spirit writes through me and that the thoughts become fluid enough for others to understand.

Let me say that this post may rub some of you the wrong way. I pray that you just take what is written and ponder on it. I’m not saying I am “right,” but I have shared this with a few friends and it resonates with them.

My question is: What if, “I Surrender All” really should be, “I Will Wrestle with my God”?????

When I heard back from my Jewish, Hebrew speaking friends and contacts, they told me that there is NOT a Hebrew/Jewish thought of surrendering to God. This kind of blew me away. And my brain started to spin.

What if the idea of surrender to God isn’t really what we think? We say that because Jesus “gave His life” He surrendered to the Father. But, did He?

The definition of “I surrender” is:

What does I surrender mean?

(Entry 1 of 2) transitive verb. 1a : to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand surrendered the fort. b : to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another.

The definition of “surrender” according to the Cambridge dictionary is:

to stop fighting and admit defeat:

Hmmm… If Jesus “surrendered to God” than that means He felt defeat. And yet, in that moment He had more VICTORY than ever before. Satan THOUGHT He had won, but we know he did not. GOD DID.

So, if I surrender to God, that means I admit defeat. Does God really want me to admit defeat? He wants me to admit when I am wrong, but to feel defeat? He wants me to be victorious! An overcomer.

There is a New Testament Studies professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I had the privilege of hearing her speak at a local synagogue when we lived in Nashville. Her name is Amy-Jill Levine and she is an Orthodox Jew. She has studied the New Testament in depth and brings to the table lots of Jewish History and understanding that Christians often miss. When I asked her about the idea/concept of “surrendering to God” her response was this:

“The Jewish tradition is sufficiently diverse that there may be a surrender idea somewhere, but I am not familiar with it. The tradition is more inclined to argue with the divine, as the Lament Psalms, Jeremiah, Moses, Abraham…. all indicate. “Israel” traditionally means “to wrestle with G-d” — that is not the image of surrender.”

Since this was not the first time I had heard that there is NOT a concept of “Surrender to God” in Jewish thought, my mind began to ponder things more.

What if we had it wrong? What if we have been teaching something the wrong way? And then I asked myself, What does it mean to “wrestle with God?”

I reached out to a friend in Florida tonight. We sent WhatsApp messages back and forth. She gave me the verse Matthew 16:24

Then Yeshua told his talmidim, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him say ‘No’ to himself, take up his execution-stake, and keep following me.

In this there is the idea of self-denial. It isn’t truly the concept of “surrender.” My friend used the words, “humble yourselves, deny yourselves, crucify…”

When she used those words, I immediately thought, “these are a form of wrestling.” We are “struggling against something.” When we “humble ourselves” we actively have to “lay something down.” When we “deny ourselves” we “give something up.” But, in NONE of these situations does it say we admit defeat, or that we are defeated.

Ephesians 6:12 For we are not struggling against human beings, but against the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers governing this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.

We have to “wrestle the flesh” inside of us. Just like Jacob “wrestled with God” to get rid of his flesh, we are “wrestling with the flesh daily.” My friend in Florida quoted it this way:

“The spirit of God nature part of us wrestles with the non-God part of us, our flesh. So in a sense, we wrestle against the Spirit of God that lives in us.”

We all know that we wrestle our flesh often. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:41 Stay awake, and pray that you will not be put to the test — the spirit indeed is eager, but human nature is weak.”

My thought is this: understanding the concept of following Jesus might make more sense to people if they do not feel like they are “losing control” by surrendering. Sometimes to “surrender” seems so overwhelming.

But, I can wrestle against something. It is difficult to feel like you are “losing control” when you wrestle. You “fight to win.” And when you are “fighting WITH God, how could you lose?

My friend responded with this:

“I feel like this is good – surrender you are giving up your will like as a prisoner, but Jesus never asks us to be His prisoners. He calls us friend, brother, beside, daughter etc…”

SO TRUE!!!!! I got chills when I read that message from her.

We are called to “fight the flesh” and “wrestle against our flesh.” We WANT to give it up and follow Him, but we don’t admit defeat to Him. We actually walk victorious WITH HIM when we yield to the Spirit.

Friends, take up your cross today and fight the flesh. Wrestle with God and His Spirit within you. When you do, you will RISE UP and find victory! This is what it means to FOLLOW HIM in Spirit and in Truth.

We admit our flesh is there, but we ACTIVELY fight it. We actively WRESTLE with it. HE is our friend and HE is our brother! HE walks beside us. That is NOT an attitude of surrender, but one of ACTIVELY working together to bring HIS KINGDOM on earth as it is in Heaven.

Friends, I pray this resonates with you. I pray that you take hold of knowing and understanding how to “wrestle with God” and LET HIM WIN. If we all take on this idea of “wrestling with God” seriously, can you imagine the VICTORY we could have????

Shabbat Shalom,

Rose Horton

PS – this picture is not of wrestling, but it is one of climbing and overcoming. Rising up to be victorious!

Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash