This morning I spent some time at a local cafe, working on my sermon for this weekend. It was a great opportunity to sit outside and enjoy a good cup of coffee while still being productive. While I was there, two young guys came and sat at the table next to me. They seemed to be having a serious conversation, so I tried to tune out. But about ten minutes after they sat down, I couldn’t help overhearing one of the guys say to the other, “I've really been praying and wrestling with God over this one.” And my first thought was, “I hope you lose.”
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that I’m an incredibly unkind person, let me explain that I had that particular response because I've been down the road of trying to bend God's will to mine - and it's never a good thing. Actually, as I look back over my life, I can point to several different occasions when I prayed and asked God for things, and despite my earnest prayers, His answer was “no”. That’s usually when I found myself “wrestling” with Him, as I tried to move Him towards me, rather than moving myself towards Him. But in hindsight, I've seen that if God had allowed me to do as I wanted, it would have ended in disaster. So, by saying “no”, God graciously and lovingly protected me.
In John 15:7, Jesus gives an incredible promise regarding God answering prayer when He says, “But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” I used to focus on the part that says, “you may ask for anything - and it will be granted”. But the more I've studied it, and the longer I’ve experienced it, the more I've realized that it’s the first part of the verse that's the most important - the part where Jesus says, “remain in Me and My words remain in you.”
In the original language, this would have read more like, “If you maintain an authentic relationship with Me, and if My word is at home in your heart, ask whatever your heart desires, and it will be yours.” The key is that our hearts need to be one with God's - and in that way, whatever we ask for will be His will already - so it will be granted.
And again, as I've reflected back to the times that I've “wrestled with God”, it's been times when my heart did not beat as His did - when either I wanted to do something that He didn't want me to do, or He wanted me to do something I didn't want to do. But the times when my heart was in synch with God's are the times when I was able to ask for what was on my heart - and God gave it to me because it was what was on His heart as well.
So today, let's each consider the things in our lives that we're “wrestling with God” about. Maybe it’s something He's calling us to do, or maybe it's something we want to do, but God doesn't seem to be making it happen. Whatever it is, let's confess to God that we're wrestling out of a desire to go our own way - and then let's ask Him to help us walk humbly where and when He wants us to walk. Let's stop wrestling with the One who loves us, and Who truly knows what’s best for us.