Praise in the wrestling…

Brothers know that there can be joy in the wrestling. 🙂 Photo made with the vrsly app. 
Session 3 – The struggle is worthwhile
Most days I see so much beautiful in the world. Fall colors, corn grown ripe for the harvest out my back window, faces of people I love.
Most days I also see ugly. Hard, ugly stuff. Hurtful stuff. Disease. Tumult. The gunk of life.
1 Peter 1:6-9 tells us a little bit about the gunk of life:
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
So much of life is spent trying to avoid the struggle. I am a guilty party. There is a song by Mat Kearney that is popular right now, “Air I Breathe.” I could not figure out for the life of me, what it was in the song that I was drawn to. What the lyrics meant. And then I sat down to write this Bible study. 

These are the lyrics that stick out to me:
“It’s the same fight all over again…
You are the war that I can’t win. 
This is my white flag in the wind…”
I thought it was about my youth, about running from God and Him finding me in every little crevice I hid, but then I realized that I have the same fight in me daily. My sinner/saint self is fighting, wrestling, struggling.
In addition to that, though, I completely relate to the idea that so often we are fighting against the good things God wants to do in our lives, simply because it may not look “good” to us. In fact, it may look horrible to us. It may look like cancer, or Bipolar, or ugly friendships. I am constantly fighting back, angry at things that cause discomfort, sorrow, and struggle. God hates disease and sickness and all those things that come from sin in the world, as much as we do, probably more. But His thoughts are also not our thoughts, His ways, not our ways.
He will use them. He will use them in a way that we never could imagine.
1stPeter tells us that He will use them for His praise. Struggles, worthy of praise?! Say it isn’t so!
I’m not sure I could have heard it in the struggle. But this is a truth we can take in and store up in our heart, so that when the struggle comes, we can sit in it, wrestle with it, even call it good, when it feels like So. Much. Struggle.
There’s another guys who knew about the struggle.

Let’s look at Genesis 32:22-31:
“The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.”
When the struggle comes, everything we have is stripped bare. We are left standing alone on the bank. God gives us the open invitation to wrestle with him, to work it out in prayer and frustration and anger and sorrow. What is your hip joint? What is the struggle in your life that has left you limping, or that you fear is coming and you’re terrified of?
Here’s a challenge. Praise Him, not in spite of the struggle, but because of it. Praise him for the limp. My limp is living with mental illness in my house. Wrestling with anxiety. Shattered missionary dreams.
How can I begin to find these things praiseworthy?
I can, because He is in every little piece of them. 

In fact, what I have learned is that in my weakness, in my wrestling, He is more clear than ever. His Grace and Salvation and Glory, wash over me when at other times they would go ignored. I am reminded that God baptized me in that river that I stand beside. He will not leave His work uncompleted. I hold tight to His promise in those waters. And so I can wrestle and be refined, and praise His name in the gunk and muck and thick of it.
Struggle. The truth is… it’s worthy of praise.

Discussion questions – what’s the hardest part of struggle in general or for you personally? What struggles can you identify as praiseworthy, whether your own or in the world around you? What have you learned in times of weakness?

*All Bible passages taken from the ESV translation. 

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