The gospel reading for this Sunday tells the story about Jacob wrestling with God. For me it is all about a human being struggle with what it means to relate to God.
I grew up with a view of Christian faith that gave the impression that the Bible was like a rule book with all the answers to all the questions we have about life and faith and that the particular set of interpretations I was being taught was the “New Testament faith.”
I did not have to gain too much theological education to realize that many passages of scripture have more than one interpretation and that many Churches/Denominations have been founded based on those differing interpretations.
While there was a lot of talk about the Bible being a book of all the right rules, there was also what became to me a more valuable emphasis on a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
When I look back on my early faith I realize that many of my views on quite a few specific Christian teachings have changed radically. But I still very much appreciate having learned that one of the most important things about being a Christian is a relationship with God through Christ.
Of course it is more than just our own personal connection with God. John Wesley, our most famous United Methodist founder, declared that that the only holiness is social holiness! What Wesley meant was that our relationship with God is not for our personal self-fulfillment. In fact the relationship’s value is much diminished if we are not allowing our experiences with Christ to lead us to want to make our world a better, more loving, more gracious and more just place.
Jesus did not die for us so that we could horde God’s love. Jesus came that we might live life more abundantly and share that abundance. That balance of personal and social holiness is one of the reasons I am a United Methodist Christian.
While I believe I know more about my relationship with God now than before, I do still struggle with parts of my faith. (Did you know that pastors do and can struggle with faith? And if they do not, that is something else to worry about!) Paul Tillich said that doubt is a part of faith. And I believe that struggle is also a part of faith. What do I struggle with?
I struggle with why good people suffer, why children go hungry, why God yet allows evil in the world, and if the Church in the world will get over its own internal struggles enough to represent Christ’s love. I struggle with why Christians sometimes believe that being right is more important than being grace filled. (This list is not exhaustive!)
There are days I wrestle with God searching for the answers to the questions I struggle with. Some of the highest and holiest experiences are that wrestling with God because I’ve learned that it is not me finding the answers that is important, it is that God is loving and gracious and willing to wrestle with me. And of course, the best answer God gives me in those struggles is, “I am with you always.”
If you are struggling with your faith, know that God is there to struggle with you. Know that God does not stop caring for you. No matter how much you struggle, God is with you.