On Wrestling With the Bible and Icy Hot


“I want you to wrestle with the Bible. Do it. Wrestle until, Jacob-like, you walk with a limp ever after, and you receive the blessing of the Lord.” Sarah Bessey, from Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women.

Hello friend! I’ve brewed some fresh coffee. I’m drinking mine black, but I have cream and sugar if you’d like. Have a seat. I’m so glad you’re here. I’m no theologian, but I’m good at research, and I’d like to really study the bible and what it says about women. I’d like to pick it apart and Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist is just the place to start, I think. I’ll also bring in some Jen Hatmaker and Rachel Held Evans to help my research.

I read the above quote and started thinking about it. What comes to mind when we hear the word “wrestle”? It’s kind of violent, right? I mean, even the WWF stuff is crazy to watch. People in costumes dancing around like weirdos, breaking chairs over each other’s heads.

I love words, really digging in and dissecting their meaning, so I did what any English prof would do. I consulted the dictionary. When I looked up “wrestle”, I found that it is an intransitive verb. Here’s the first definition:

1: “to contend by grappling with and striving to trip or throw an opponent down or off-balance.”

What? Is Sarah suggesting we try to take the Bible down? We’re supposed to trip it up and throw it down–knocking it off-balance? How is that even possible? While I doubt we can “trip up” the Bible, I think it’s ok to inspect it from all angles, and to turn it upside if necessary. Let’s look at the second most common definition.

2 To combat an opposing tendency or force, as in wrestling with his conscience. So this definition would suggest that the Bible is a an opposing tendency or force? While I think that the Bible does sometimes create opposition, both within and in the world…maybe this is closer after all. 

Wait, before we decide, let’s look at the last usage.

3:  to engage in deep thought, consideration, or debate. At first glance, this definition makes the most sense, I think, don’t you? I think the bible, particularly bible verses about the treatment of women, should be engaged in deep thought, consideration and debate. 

A word of caution: Debate can often get violent, and words can wound. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sarah’s mentioning of the story of Jacob wrestling with the Lord. This might really point to the sweaty, painful power struggle between two ideas, that is not over with quickly or easily, and somebody is going to be hurt in the process. It might be a deep hurt that causes a lifelong disability, a noticeable reminder of what happens when we take on sensitive topics.

 Here’s the story she’s referencing. It’s in Genesis 32:24:

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[c] and he was limping because of his hip.32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip,because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

Are you ready? I’ve got the Icy Hot ready and some Tylenol, just in case.

Raindrops of Mercy: When We Must Forgive God


Many times this eludes me. Regardless of how I appear on the exterior, I am a sensitive person who gets hurt easily. However, if after the hurt occurs, an apology is given, it’s surprising how quickly I forgive and move on.

The question is–what if an apology is NOT given? What if there’s no repentance on the part of the one who does the hurting? What if the one who hurt us seems to be God himself?

These are the hard questions. Certainly God knew my sweet Daddy was suffering towards the end of his life. His pain sometimes seemed interminable, unending. We prayed for healing. Begged for healing. We stormed heaven itself with our tears.

It seemed, however, that God was silent.

When Dad became too ill to even take a short outing–to the hardware store to pick up a tool, he couldn’t bear to be on his feet more than a few minutes–my heart clouded over with resentment. Where was God? Was it any big deal for He who created Dad to simply blink an eye and restore Dad to his former health? No, it wasn’t.

Still God was silent.

My sister who used to be a missionary for Jesus, who traveled to India and Russia spreading the gospel, living on mere pennies a day, giving of her life and heart for God to the ends of the earth, prayed for my father’s healing which never came. Still, God in his heaven was silent.

So I understand Mary and Martha’s pain, I think. In John 11:2 we read, “This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.”

Oh, THAT Mary. I’m glad Luke tells us which one because there were a lot of them running around. John wants us to know that the particular Mary he’s referring to loved Jesus so much she received a special place in the Women Who Got it Right Club. She was truly affected by the words and person of Jesus and one of his closest friends.

So I’m sure when she sent word to Him that her brother (the one you love, she said) was ill, she didn’t for one moment think that he would be silent, or take His sweet time to get there.

Yet he did. Ad I’m sure Mary felt his silence as a knife in the gut.

Of course we know the end of the story. Jesus shows up. Martha came out to talk with him, but Mary didn’t. She waited inside, still hurt to the core by Jesus’s seemingly indifference. Jesus cries when he sees how hurt his friends are. He tastes their bitter grief and raises Lazarus from the dead. Everything is well.

But we who live in our time are not afforded such luxuries of divine understanding. Mary and Martha could forgive God becuase Jesus came over and fixed everything before their eyes. Sometimes he doesn’t. Then what?

This is where our faith is tested. This is where the rubber meets the road. We say we believe in Jesus; we sing hymns about trusting Him. Sometimes, in the midnight of grief, he’s there and the unasked question seems to be, “Now, even now, do you trust Me?”

It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to storm heaven with our prayers, even when we don’t get it. David prayed, “God, whom I praise, don’t remain silent.” We are not the first to experience this. In the early days of grief and suffering, it’s difficult
to remember that God is still in charge. He’s in control. He longs to wipe the tears from our eyes, and sometimes He shows up in the form of a friend. Look for Him, dear one. He’s not forgotten you.