Tag Archives: Israel

Veil of Tears 108: Wrestling

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So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” Genesis 32:24 NIV

Wrestling was quite popular in the UK when I was small. Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy were what passed as celebrities back then, which really just meant they got to open supermarkets and appear on Tiswas. They seemed like gentle, wobbly giants to me, and whilst partly staged, the matches were not at all like the colourful over-the-top theatre that we now see in the WWF so popular in the States.

Wrestling with ourselves and with God often seems less dramatic than you might imagine as well. It can feel dark and lonely, those long nights where you are not sure if you are in a half Nelson with yourself or your maker. Where you are so tired, so worn out by the fight, that your aching spiritual muscles don’t know if they can take the stretched pain any more. And at the end, when day finally breaks, you may be left unsure if you have encountered God or not, unsure what his parting words may mean, and finding yourself with a lifelong limp for your troubles.

But to be sure, every genuine and determined seeker after the heart of God will experience such troubles. We will wrestle with our conscience, with our desires, with our ideas about who God is, and perhaps most of all with our egos.

And whilst we sit and lick our wounds, or nurse our confusion, or feel the dull ache in our thigh, we may find we too have come out of the other side of the night with a new name, a reconciliation on the horizon, and a new identity as an overcomer. Interestingly, it is our ability to overcome which is also the reason we are given new names by Jesus in Revelation.

Might our new names be fit for celebrity wrestlers, I wonder? But the ring in which we continue at times to struggle has no cameras, no bunting or fans, no glitter-spangled leotards (thank God), no energy for chutzpah. Instead it is endurance, sticking it out, holding on in the dark, keeping the faith, hoping against hope for our blessings when life has bodyslammed all the wind out of us, these are the ways to real victory, though the fight takes its toll and the dawn light may at first seem cold.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

33: Hopeless

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Yes, the day of the LORD will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope.” Amos 5:20 NLT

Sounds pretty dire, doesn’t it? And not like the God of love we know – but like any verse grabbed out of context, this description of the day of the Lord is misleading on its own. At this point the Lord is speaking through his prophet Amos, trying (as always) to get the people of Israel to turn back to him and be true, genuine and faithful. They might talk about wanting the Lord to come and be with them, but because of their insincerity and disloyalty this would be hopeless, because he would have to judge them, and so that circumstance is described before our verse above: “In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion—

only to meet a bear. Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house—

and he’s bitten by a snake.” Amos 5:19

These would be happenings that Alanis Morissette might have sung about in her song Ironic, where she gleefully (and perhaps ironically) confuses misfortune with irony. Here the Israelites too are in a muddle, but about who God is and what he and they want. They say they want him around, but try to placate him with false praise. The Lord is desperate to save them and give them the hope that they are running from. As well as the refrain “come back to me and live!” in this chapter, the last verse describes what God wants from his people instead of worship and sacrifices that are only for show (partnering the perhaps better known Isaiah 58) “Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living”. Amos 5: 24 NLT

I find it physically hard to type the word “hopeless.” I didn’t used to. I was sure I was hopeless and so it flowed easily, off the fingers and off the tongue. Since I started praying regularly, every time I try to type the word, it comes out as hopeful, unless I am really concentrating. I find this encouraging, because I am not naturally a hopeful person, and hope (!) that it is revealing something of the unquenchable optimism of the Holy Spirit that dwells within me.

But if that is my inner truth, it doesn’t always feel like that. Life is hard and relentlessly so, at least for my family it seems, and holding onto hope in the day to day grind is often too hard an ask. And yet, somehow it remains, like a hidden mystery, deep down, a seed in the dark that refuses to die. It doesn’t float, that’s for sure, and it is not a light, airy ethereal thing, hope. At least not to me. Hope is a heavy thing, an anchor that holds fast in the deep mud underneath everything. It is strong and it is immoveable, unlike my own sometimes feeble faith. Hope keeps me going because it underpins all things. It is the hand I can reach out for in the dark of night and the flame that burns right at the centre of a bright furnace. It can be relied upon, along with love, to hold fast and never give up.

Being hopeless looks a lot less like the weariness and despair that we feel when times are hard than we think. Instead It is clear that we are only really without hope when we go our own way and choose wickedness and falsity over the genuine relationship offered by the Lord of all Hopefulness.

 

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile