As a freshman in college, I met of number of other freshman girls, and it wasn’t long before we formed a nucleus of friends. We supported one another during those overwhelming and exciting adjustments to college life, and we enjoyed getting to know each other better, though our personalities and backgrounds were diverse.
One girl, Jen, and I were quite different from one another. She had been raised in a family that communicated much less freely than mine did. She also experienced significant trauma in her young life, whereas I was more sheltered and a bit clueless.
In spite of our differences, Jen and I clicked from the first day we met. It wasn’t long before she and I were close enough to start getting on each other’s nerves. The truth is that I sometimes upset her…probably because I was less thoughtful and mature than she was.
But one positive element I brought to the relationship was good communication skills. I didn’t know what it meant to be passive aggressive. I was open and transparent and thought any problem could be worked out if both people cared enough about a relationship. And I knew if we ever wanted to have a true friendship, we would have to work out our problems.
I remember one particular instance when we had a misunderstanding. She closed the door to our dorm room in my face and locked it. I was crying and banging on the door like a child, saying something like, “You can’t shut me out…I love you, Jen!” Oh, the drama!
Jen and I moved forward in our friendship because we were willing to grapple with one another.
Being Willing to Engage
In order to take any relationship to the next level, we need to be willing to engage with each other in conversations that go beyond chit-chat and emojis. Swapping conflicting opinions or arguing heatedly in a productive way can actually propel a relationship into deeper waters. If we refuse to wrestle with one another, our relationships remain shallow.
The same principle applies to our relationship with God.
Are we willing, then, to grapple with God? Are we willing to, with reverence, ask God the tough questions so that we can begin to go deeper in our relationship with Him? Are we willing to put time and energy into this endeavor?
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A Wrestling Match
Jacob, one of patriarchs in the Bible, “wrestled” with a mysterious stranger all night long. When the stranger dislocated Jacob’s hip, Jacob still held on. He would not release his hold on the mysterious man until the man blessed him. Through perseverance, Jacob received his blessing. Later he said, “I have seen God face to face…yet my life has been spared” (Genesis 32:30).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “From this [Biblical] account, the spiritual tradition of the Church has retained the symbol of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance” (CCC 2573).
Engaging with God in prayer can sometimes resemble a wrestling match!
I was quite relieved to learn that definition of prayer. Though I have had many moments of peace and consolation in my own faith journey, I am a devout grappler.
Having this somewhat noisy relationship with God obliges me to think about ways to engage God respectfully and faithfully, while still admitting that I sometimes have trouble finding that “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Grappling with God
The following mnemonic is a helpful way to approach a “wrestling match” with God:
G // Give God permission to be God in your life.
R // Raise questions; reach out for understanding; rage if you must.
A // Acknowledge your fears and doubts.
P // Plead for God’s assistance and blessing.
P // Put your trust in God and persevere in prayer, no matter what.
L // Love.
E // Enter into a deeper relationship with God; experience His peace; embrace the awesome plan He has for your life.
Sometimes we distance ourselves from God because we don’t want to put the time or energy into our relationship with Him.
Or perhaps we are afraid that if we try to reach a new level of understanding and friendship with God, we will find that He isn’t as real, as powerful, and as loving as we want Him to be.
Though some people, like myself, have to be encouraged to be more trusting and peaceful, there are others who need to be exhorted to go ahead and “get real” with God. The Holy Trinity does not want to be stored, like a household god, in a niche in the wall of our homes. That is not enough for Him and, eventually, we will find that it is not enough for us either.
Our God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives.
He invites us to grapple.Grappling with God #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five.