Around our house this time of year can feel a little overwhelming. While longing for the slower, uncommitted days of summer, we are instead bombarded with “end of year” parties, school projects, and field trips that require our attention and attendance. The relentless gauntlet of the May schedule is like a capstone to a demanding year of busyness and expectations. Sometimes it leaves us with a limp. For us, that seems to be truer than ever this year.

On April 12 our family experienced incredible loss. My wife’s sister, whom we dearly loved, passed away after a valiant, almost 20 year fight with cancer. While she was sick off and on for many years, her final days moved more rapidly than we ever anticipated. And her passing was a devastating blow.

Throughout these recent weeks our family has wrestled with God. With the usual demands of May added to our grief, we feel as if we are limping into this summer.  

In our grief, we found some encouragement in an unusual place, the story of Jacob and Esau. It is a complex story full of deceit, death, and tragedy. And then Jacob  encounters the Lord alone on the banks of a river. Genesis 32:22-32 tells us simply that “a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.” Until finally, the man touched Jacob’s hip socket, giving Jacob a limp that would remain for the rest of his life. Jacob demands that the “man” bless him, which he does,  giving Jacob a new name: Israel.

The Hebrew word for Israel can be translated as a combination of the words for “wrestle” and “God.”

And this encouraged me as I continue to wrestle with God. I wonder sometimes if I am being renamed. Amazingly, the nation of Israel is established in the renaming of Jacob. Israel will come to be the chosen people of God in whom the Christian faith finds its foundation. Hope is found. From a wrestling match with the Lord, Jacob leaves limping. From a journey that is difficult and filled with heartache, Jacob is renamed and given hope.

I pray that through our journey of grief and heartache we too will meet the Lord and continue to find hope in Him.  As we do, perhaps we will continue to limp.

Questions to consider:

  • In times of grief, heartache or loss, when you have felt as if you were limping? Where have you found hope?
  • If the Lord was to give you a new name, right now, at this point in your journey with him, what name do you think he would give you? Why?