wrestle with God

How to Wrestle with God When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed

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If you wonder what does it mean to wrestle with God or how to wrestle with God, we can help. Read here to learn the three steps to wrestle with God effectively.

What does it mean to wrestle with God?

The oak tree outside my bedroom window has huge leaves. Two weeks ago, they served as verdant heralds of a miracle for which I’d prayed for months. It’s the miracle hundreds of people prayed I’d receive. Finally, I did. Here’s how it happened…

The desperate decision to wrestle with God

Two days earlier, my vision was at the worst point in a series of blurry days. I was afraid to drive. The day before the heraldic leaves, I determined to fight the battle of Jacob and wrestle with God – I would not let go until God moved in one way or the other. The struggle left Jacob with a permanent limp, so I wasn’t sure how I would emerge but, after months of eye problems and uncertainty, I was exhausted and ready for answers.

I spent a day in prayer and repentance, seeking an answer about my eye. My prayers were based on three important principles:

  • Surrender to God’s will.

  • The sacrifice of thanksgiving

  • Repentance of sin

It was the hardest intercession I’ve ever done, but neither of those three steps was optional if I wanted an answer to a seemingly unanswered prayer.

Thy will be done

The chronic viral infection in my eye left me with one of three possibilities. Either God would heal me, I’d have chronic blurriness and struggles, or the infection would take my vision and leave me blind. Would anyone choose blindness? Not likely.

The only prayer-answer I wanted to accept was healing. That day, however, I surrendered to whatever God thought best for me. “Take my sight or leave it, God, but help me understand what you’re doing. I’m choosing to want what you want more than my own desire for healing.”

It may sound like a bunch of words but, as one who sees answered prayer on a daily basis, I know how deadly serious prayer is. What I didn’t know was what God’s will would be, and I feared it.

The sacrifice of thanksgiving

I’ve written about this numerous times. If we are to give thanks “in all things” we must find cause for gratitude even in the most difficult circumstances. I’d already begun to thank God for the good eyesight in my right eye, the continued ability to drive, the blessing of audiobooks, the benefits of large print, the doctor’s wisdom, the kindness of the office staff, the ease of travel.

On the wrestling day, I took it a few steps further. I walked through my home and thanked God for everything I saw. A stroll around my property found new reasons for thanksgiving. My contacts-list offered up hundreds of friends, family, and other relationships for which I could (and did) give thanks.

Finally, I moved my thanksgiving into a difficult zone. I tried to remember all the hard things God had allowed, then looked for positive outcomes from each trial for which I could thank Him.

Surrender to God’s will was a hard-fought battle, but it didn’t take long. The sacrifice of thanksgiving was a different matter. I literally spent hours giving thanks. The longer the time spent thanking God, the more an overwhelming sense of gratitude increased and the less my trial mattered.

Repentance of sin

Repentance was the hardest step of all, but the most necessary. Repenting of the sins I recognized wasn’t a problem. It was the sin hidden too deep in my heart to see that remained unconfessed.

I started by addressing any sin for which I thought I might not have repented, then moved on to sin I wasn’t sure I had. Before the day was over, however, I finally came to the deepest point of surrender. “Lord,” I prayed, “show me the sin you want me to relinquish.”

He did.

Let go of the idol.

The words in my heart were so clear, I had no trouble understanding them. As soon as I heard them, I felt waves of nausea, revulsion, and dread flow through me. Instantly I knew what God meant and I feared what was to come.

My first article was written for a junior high school newsletter in 1969. After forty-nine years, the last five years spent writing nearly constantly, I consider myself a writer even more than a physician, and I am. Writing is how I process life, how I communicate, and how I touch the world. It’s my preferred art form and a huge part of my ministry. Printed words on a page are beautiful to me. Fonts and text size delight me. I love how words slash through our defenses, open our hearts and change our minds.

I love being a writer.

The thing I feared most was not blindness but losing the ability to write.

Sometimes we need to release our dream to have the heart God desires for us.

My love for writing isn’t a bad thing and it hasn’t been used in a bad way. It’s a gift from God used to glorify Him. On that beautiful, dreadful day, I realized I’d allowed the gift God gave to become a consuming priority in my life and, eventually, an exhausting, devouring idol. When I saw it, I opened my hands and metaphorically released this good-thing-turned-idol. That idol shattered into a million pieces and lost its power in my life. I apologized to God, asked for forgiveness, and reveled in the cleanness of my heart.

Thanksgiving and surrender to God’s will prepared me to walk away from writing altogether if that’s what it took to relinquish my idol.

At the moment of surrender, I had no idea what God would do. I still don’t.

For two decades, I wrote the words I heard in my heart. If God continues to give me words, I’ll write them. If He doesn’t, I won’t. It’s that simple. It’s that hard.

One Wednesday evening recently, the guest speaker at church spoke words I needed to hear. “Whatever you die to, when you give it up for God, you will rise again.”

“I believe I’ll write again – this time without an idol.” I wrote those words several days ago. Today, I know they’re true. There are words in my heart again. A few days ago I wrote a guest blog for Global Outreach and am writing a short Maggie-and-Mamie story to use as an exclusive freebie for subscribers to my email newsletter. (If you’re not subscribed, you can sign up below.)

Does God still heal?

Yes, He does. Does God restore what sin has stolen? Yes, He does. His solution to our problem may not look the way we hoped, but He still answers prayer, moves on our behalf, and performs miracles.

Repentance of sin, a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and surrender to His will are vital parts of intercession and answered prayer. Should they not also be vital parts of our desire for a miraculous intervention in our own trials? Yes, of course.

Those are hard tasks, but not optional. The question is not what God can do, but what will we do? How far will we go in obedience?

On the wrestling day, I began by wrestling with God, or so I thought. In truth, the battle of wills was with myself and my own sin nature.

Do we need God to move? Maybe it’s time to wrestle, not with God, but with ourselves, and surrender to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

He is able. Are we willing?

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Here’s an article from PrayingWithConfidence.com that might also be helpful:

Are You in a Season of Waiting on God? Ten Scriptures to Pray While Waiting on God

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