Blessed in Battle: Finding Strength Through Wrestling with God

warrior women series Mar 14, 2024
Warrior woman with shield and sword

 God's Warrior Woman ~ Lori Ann

A fun code word— “Taco!” “Quesadilla! “Szechuan!” “Sriracha!”—erupts from the silence. This caterwaul is followed by the pounding of half a dozen feet overhead. Then comes the distinct thump of elbows and knees hitting the carpeted floor. At that point, I know wrestling has begun.

My husband has made a practice of wrestling with our children since they were preschoolers. A wrestler in high school (who still owns the pants), he has taught them the holds and rules. I’ve not been included in this wrestling, thankfully. Never a fan, I just listened from a downstairs room as someone inevitably got “hurt.” Nothing serious, and it was often more feelings hurt than bodies hurt, but I usually heard a plea for help before they called a truce. Strange thing is, they always wanted to wrestle again the next night.

Genesis tells of another wrestling night: the one Jacob spent wrestling with God.  

Jacob was not looking forward to a reunion with his older brother Esau. Decades earlier, Jacob had tricked their father into giving him a blessing meant for Esau. Jacob assumed Esau had likely never forgotten. And most importantly, Esau may have never forgiven.

Jacob heard through his spies that an angry Esau was now approaching in a rather unbrotherly-like fashion, bringing an army of 400 men. So Jacob planned and worried, plotted and wondered. He broke his family into groups so some might survive. He selected gifts for his brother. And he pleaded with God for help.

Throughout that night, Jacob was scared sleepless at unrelenting thoughts of Esau approaching with his angry mob. And although Jacob started the night praying for rescue from God, a stranger showed up to wrestle instead. Ever the tenacious wrestler, Jacob could not be overpowered, so the combatant dislocated his hip. Realizing the wrestler was actually God Himself, Jacob refused to stop wrestling until God blessed him.

So Jacob went to meet his brother the next day with both an injury and a blessing.

I have identified with Jacob, as a wrestling observer, but more recently as a participant. I have grown weary from wrestling with God for a blessing as I have struggled through heart failure.

I went from being an enviably healthy person, to a suspected flu victim, to a candidate for a heart transplant in the matter of 48 hours. Prescriptions filled my kitchen table, trips to Cleveland Clinic filled my calendar, and fear filled my heart.

But God never left my side. He allowed me, even encouraged me, to wrestle with him. And I was more than willing to engage in the brawl.

Fear or pain may cause us to wrestle with God until he blesses us. We know Him, we trust Him, and most importantly, we know He can. We want that blessing. So we wrestle.

But it seems that the blessing nearly always comes with a wound.

In the biblical tiff, God dislocated Jacob’s hip. In my encounter, God dislocated my sense of security. But through vulnerability and a recognition of my own helplessness, I have known community and love and the power of prayer like I had never known before my heart failure.

Another interesting parallel, as with Jacob, my greatest ally showed up at first looking like my worst enemy. While my disease looked like an adversary I needed to defeat and overcome, it now looks more like an avenue of blessing and companionship with God. But first, the wrestling had to take place. Not because God had to be convinced to bless me, but because in the wrestling, he had even more blessings in mind.

The blessing of knowing him and fully trusting him first came to me in the guise of chronic illness.

And most importantly, the wrestling and the pain have caused me to focus on God rather than on my fear.

If I had not known the doubts and the cries of abandonment, the only cries I could have would be of fear—fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of death. 

 God knew the longings of my heart were much more important than the longings for healing of my physical body. The wrestling forced Jacob and I both to step away from fear and focus on God. I was forced to examine my relationship with God and my faith with a new scrutiny. I am still learning this art of wrestling with God. I am seeing that it requires a faith I did not have before, a faith I now realize I need to build.

I have kept a journal since this ordeal began. Looking back, I can see how wrestling with God has brought me closer to him:

Today in worship we sang the familiar “My Only Hope is You.” It seemed different this time. For months I’ve felt the lyrics were meant only for me, that I was uniquely suffering. I thought, “No one else should be able to sing this. I’m the only one who fully understands what it’s like to truly have God as their only hope.” So I begged God to be real and to help me through my special ailment. But today as I prayed I realized the bigger truth, and I may have finally realized the blessing. Jesus is our only hope every day, whether we are 100% healthy or on hospice care. I think I get it now, but it has taken a lot of struggle-soaked prayer to reach this point.

Jesus is our only hope.

But not until that helplessness was palpable did I grasp it. Even though it is true every day, every year, this truth has somehow eluded me most of my life, until I could keenly feel it, physically.

Our children remember the wrestling days fondly. Our daughter sent my husband a snapshot from a textbook she was studying last year in college. It was from A Discourse on the Ideal Renaissance Man,Moreover, I deem it very important to know how to wrestle.” Although my children realized they risked a rug-burned knee or a scratch here and there, they knew their father had their best interest at heart. Any ensuing pain was worth forging that relationship with him, a relationship that would help get them through the rest of their lives.

When my now-grown kids were on their way home for the holidays last year, my husband sent them a group text: “Tonight, we wrestle.”

I smiled, because finally, in some small way, I understood.

Make sure you check back next week for another Warrior Woman!

You Are An Overcomer!

You are not alone; God created you in His image, which means you have power and authority.  He has equipped you with His strength and boldness. I would love to connect more and give you a FREE gift - The Warrior Woman Workbook: Overcoming Through the Power of Prayer and Fasting. 

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The Warrior Women Series will offer motivation and inspiration through heartfelt stories, illustrating that you can overcome challenges through the powerful combination of prayer and fasting.

Lori Ann Wood lives with her husband in an empty nest in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas. Having discovered a serious heart condition almost too late, Lori Ann writes and speaks to encourage deep faith questions along the detours of life. Her work has been published in several anthologies and numerous print and online venues, including The New York Times, The Christian Century Magazine, Bella Grace Magazine, Just Between Us Magazine, and Pepperdine University Press. She will speak at The Pepperdine Lectureships, Women Walking with God, and The Coastal Writer’s Retreat in 2024, along with other retreats, conferences, and summits.

Lori Ann’s first book, Divine Detour: The Path You’d Never Choose Can Lead to the Faith You’ve Always Wanted, was published in 2023 by CrossRiver Media. It quickly became a number one new release on Amazon and has already won several international awards.

If you’re on an unplanned path in life, Lori Ann would love to connect with you on her website or on social media. Connect with Lori Ann on her website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest


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