“And I won’t let go until you bless me.”
This was Jacob’s rallying cry as He wrestled with God. It’s been one that many people who have suffered great sorrow and lost cry out as well. Looking for solace, comfort, peace. Just like Jacob had removed his family from the land he knew to keep his family safe from his brother, Esau, Jacob realized that it would not come without a fight. How many of us find ourselves fighting for solace, comfort, peace of mind? At times it seems fleeting, ever eluding us. Especially for those who suffer from Mental Illness such as Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder, Anxiety, and others. Jacob knew through his spiritual growth that he wasn’t done yet. Sending his family ahead of himself and being alone wasn’t by accident. It was intentional. There was one battle left to fight. Jacob was wrestling to be free of the thing that had him bound mentally, physically, and spiritually. It’s easy for me to relate to Jacob. I, too, find myself wrestling with peace at times. But the fight is fixed! Finding the strategy is key to the win.
Earlier in chapter 32 of Genesis, the Bible tells us that Esau came to confront Jacob, even after Jacob sent a peace offering in the form of presents. This reminds me of all of the times I tried to bargain with my peace. I would make all sorts of promises of being a better Christian, loving people better, letting some people go. In the end, restless nights, confused thoughts, and a broken spirit continued to seek me. Simply wanting peace and healing wasn’t enough. I had to do something about it. I had to fight for it.
“And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.”
Jacob set a plan in place. He sent his wives, children, staff, and possessions across the Jabbok, a westward flowing tributary that emptied into the Jordan River, just 15 miles north of the Dead Sea. Once they had put some distance between Jacob, he settled in for the night. This was ultimately be Jacob’s final encounter with God before He changed his name. There is some debate as to whether Jacob wrestled with God or an angel who possessed God’s authority. The debate further continues with whether this was just a vision that Jacob had. From personal experience, I am inclined to believe that Jacob had a physical encounter. Additionally, it’s important to note that commentaries share that at this time Jacob was older, he was elderly. I love that fact because it encourages me to continuing seeking what I need from God. That time and age mean nothing. Jacob and the Angel wrestled until the daybreak. The battle only ended when the Angel had to physically dislocate Jacob’s hip. Why is this important to note as we discuss mental health? Because it gives us an example of the extent that Jacob went to receive what he needed to move on. Even with a dislocated hip, Jacob was relentless and refused to give up. He placed a demand on God and said, “I won’t let go until you bless me.” As a result, Jacob got his request granted and his name was changed to Israel, which in the Hebrew means “he struggled with God, as well as with men, and had prevailed.” Jacob asked the Angel’s name and was never answered and so he renamed the place he was in Penniel or Penuel which means “the face of God.” How willing are we to fight for what we need to be whole and at peace? Are we willing to walk away with a limp? Are we willing to put it all out on the line?
Over the next 31 days lets explore what it means to be built for this as our mental health and faith intersect.