Genesis 32:22-32: That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had.
24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.
25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.
26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.”
28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.
32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.
An obvious pattern in the Bible is that God tests the faith and stamina of his people as they cry out in prayer for some significant mercy. He tests them by withholding the mercy they are asking for. Not only that, but first he makes things worse, sending them discouraging setbacks. But count on it – he will eventually prosper those who push through in urgent prayer without quitting and will not take no for an answer.
Jonathan Edwards, “A Call to United Extraordinary Prayer,” in Works (Edinburgh, 1979), II:312.
The scriptures are filled with examples of Jacob-like wrestling matches with God. The biblical “lament” genre – including the “complaint against God” tradition – is found throughout the Old Testament. Many Psalms boldly raise questions, express doubts and even level accusations about God’s faithfulness while challenging the justice of his providential rule (e.g. Psa 89: 19-44). Similarly, as his pain and anger grew, Job did not stop short of accusing God of grossly mistreating him and others. Though God eventually chastised him for his theological misstatements (for which Job himself repented, see Job 42), God nevertheless commended the honesty and gutsiness of his talk. Unlike his pious-sounding “friends,” Job’s speech was honest and authentic (kûn, 42:7). Yahweh clearly appreciates raw truth more than pious platitudes. Similarly, the prophet Habakkuk boldly charged God with treating the wicked better than the righteous (e.g. Hab. 1:3-4, 13), while Jeremiah had the audacity to accuse God of deceiving and torturing his own people (Lam.). Most importantly, Jesus himself endorses this tradition both in his teachings (e.g., Luke 11:5-9; 18:1-8) and by example (i.e., in his “cry of dereliction” on the cross).
While expressing doubts and challenging God may be antithetical to the modern, popular notion of faith, it is perfectly compatible with the biblical understanding. The essence of “faith” in the biblical tradition is not blind, unthinking submission or even an unwavering psychological certainty. Rather, faith is fundamentally a covenantal concept that expresses one’s willingness to trust another and to be trustworthy in relation to another. --ReKnew