how to wrestle with God

How to Wrestle with God

If you want to know what it means to wrestle with God or how to wrestle with God, we can help. Read here to learn three steps to wrestle with God effectively.

My desperate decision to wrestle with God

My vision was at the worst point in a series of blurry days. I was afraid to drive and worn out from trying to see through the blur to view my computer screen. The problem was a severe viral infection of my cornea, probably contracted during a trip to the Middle East, and it threatened to completely destroy my sight.

Months of uncertainty left me more desperate than ever. Would I lose my sight or not? I wanted an answer, one way or the other. In desperation, 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 the long struggle 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.

How to Wrestle with God: Three Vital Steps

1. Surrender to God’s Will

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 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.

2. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving

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, and 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 the 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.

Surrendering 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.

3. Repent of sin

Repentance was the hardest step of all as I wrestled with God, but the most necessary. Repenting for 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 in my heart, 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, when I learned how to wrestle with God, 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 decades, I wrote the words I heard in my heart. If God continues to give me words, I will continue to write them. If He doesn’t, I won’t. It’s that simple. It’s that hard.

One Wednesday evening at church, the guest speaker 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 in my journal that night and I believe they’re true. In fact, I know they are. For several years, I’ve mostly written for (click on the link to view my articles there) and written a weekly prayer guide for my church. At last, I’ve begun to write again. 

After the Wrestling: 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 all part of how to wrestle with God but they’re also vital parts of intercession and answered prayer. Should they not also be vital parts of our desire for miraculous intervention in our own trials? Yes, of course.

Repentance, thanksgiving, and surrender are all 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 day I learned how to wrestle with God, I only thought I was wrestling with God. In truth, the battle of wills was with myself and my own sin nature.

Do you need God to move? Do you feel like you need to know how to wrestle with God? Maybe it’s time to wrestle, not with God, but with yourself, and surrender to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

He is able. Are you willing?


Author’s Note: It took quite a while after I wrestled with God before He healed me. Healing didn’t look quite like I expected but it’s surely precious. Despite a thick scar over 25% of my left cornea, with glasses I have 20/20 vision in that eye without a bit of cloudiness. Five years after my wrestling day, I’m writing with joy (and no idol) again.


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How to wrestle with God

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