A Place of Jabbok


There are times I want to ask God questions-not like, why is the sky blue or what is the purpose of platypuses-but the hard questions. Things like:

  • where are you when spiritual leaders are being corrupted?
  • why aren’t my eyes healed?
  • when are you going to show up and prove yourself to doubters?
  • was it part of your plan for me to lose a baby?

These type of questions put me in a spiritual wrestling match with God. When Job questioned God, he was met with 4 chapters of God’s reply. Job finally concludes that God can do all things and that no plan of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Which made me wonder, is there a right way to wrestle with God? Jacob seems to demonstrate that there is since he is blessed at the end of his encounter in Genesis 32. How was Jacob different than Job? Jacob came to a place of Jabbok.

“That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone and a a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” -Gen 32:22-24

Jabbok (ya-boke) is a Hebrew word that means emptying. Jacob empties himself of everything-all of his earthly valuables- people and possessions, and is left alone. I think there are several lessons to learn here:

  1. We cannot question God with heads, hearts or hands full of our own agendas, explanations or expectations. When we want to wrestle with God we must approach him emptied of ourselves, otherwise we may not hear him because we are too busy listening for the answer we want.
  2. Wrestling is not a team sport. Not really. There might be a school wrestling team, but each man goes on to the mat alone. We cannot merely show up at church or talk to other people to gain answers and insight from God. We must purpose ourselves to get alone and “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)
  3. Wrestling with God can be a long process. Jacob wrestled until daybreak- I can’t even wrestle with my one-year-old for five minutes, let alone a grown man! We must build spiritual endurance. We must be willing to let our relationship with God get a little messy. I’m sure Jacob was a wreck by daybreak. Most of the time I am just not willing to fight that hard for a blessing.

One important thing I am learning in this season is that I must come to a place of Jabbok. I have so many questions I want to ask God about my past, about myself and about Him. But I know I will not truly hear His voice unless I first empty myself of me. All of me, even the things I think are so valuable to my Christianity: the right choices I’ve made, my education, ministry experience, etc. I must have empty hands and open arms if I am to wrestle with God… this can only happen if I come to a place of Jabbok.


9 responses to “A Place of Jabbok

  1. Amber, I’m completely with you here. Though sometimes I think some people may find my relationship with God to seem rather childish, at first glance. In this way, we’re complete opposites… I find myself simply not asking questions. I have a hard time wrestling with my past, and so I choose to ignore it and move on, sometimes, I think, without learning anything. I trust God to do what He will, and I rarely think about what went before, though the questions are always voiced silently in my heart.

    Why did I walk away after Master’s?
    Why didn’t I ever go into full time ministry?
    Why does the ministry not feel right to me, and yet, nowhere else does either?

    And I don’t have any answers. So, I find myself setting out a fleece, like Gideon. I told God a long time ago that I wasn’t going to pursue ministry anymore. If He wanted me there, He’d have to open the door. The strange thing is, I’m very successful at whatever I’ve put my hand to, except when I try to force open that door.

    I’m not giving any answers, just saying that I hear you. Your questions are much tougher than mine, I think. Keep on searching and wrestling. Though the place you end up at may not yield the answers you’re looking for, it will probably be exactly where God wants you at.

  2. I’m with Quinn — sometimes it’s just easier to “accept fate” than to wrestle for answers (or even blessings!). I can see that maybe I need to fight a little harder for things sometimes…
    But wrestling with God must be like Neil wrestling with Jorgen. There is, of course, no way it’s an even match. Yet he let Jacob do it. I wonder if he smiled to himself the way a parent does when they watch their toddler use all their force to “knock ’em down.”

    The thing that comes to my mind, though, is something I’ve been learning lately: we (humans, but especially Americans!) take ourselves and our individuality a little too far sometimes. There is purpose in the collective and we tend not to hear that too much anymore. I think of Joseph and how bad his life sucked for a long time, even though he stayed true to God throughout. IN THE END, though, Joseph’s fate (though rewarding to him individually) was for the nation of Israel — Joseph had to be saved so that the rest of God’s Children wouldn’t starve to death in the famine and be completely wiped off the planet.
    God is on the constant lookout for his people collectively and for their good. Not to say He doesn’t love each of us with Crazy Love as individuals (’cause he does!), but sometimes I think we need to just sit back and realize that whatever our situation, God knows it, He orchestrated it, and He loves us through it.

    I don’t have answers for a lot of things in my life — even things that still sting to think about. I’m not sure if I should be wrestling with God over them or not, but I know that God can’t fill up a vessel that’s full of old junk. He requires a clean, empty vessel. So that is what I bring him. or try to. 🙂

    Sorry this is so long and patronizing-sounding. You know me: just thinking “out loud.”

    Btw, glad you started a blog. Haven’t been keeping mine up very well at all. Maybe I’ll go make a few entries today… 🙂

  3. Amber- I miss you! Thank you for your blog.. I am excited about it. I am challenged by it today & love your honest heart. Thanks for sharing!

  4. So much to agree on –

    I think in some respects it’s all part of the journey. Not the answers, but the questioning. The more questions I ask and wait for answers, my relationship with him usually grows through it. Not questioning the truth of Him, but just questions.

    About 9 months ago – i was reading through the OT and through Samuel I was struck by all the death that was ordered by God….It got to the point of really questioning why all the death and then hit 2 Samuel 14:14 – But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. (NIV)

    It was the answer to a lot of questions for me – the question that God does care, even when it’s not evident and it seems like he is very distant.

    So – even though i don’t get the answers to many of my questions, i know it makes me think about him and talk to him and somehow those questions turn into some kind of peace and for me, it’s just a part of the journey.

    Same as quinn – i don’t have answers, but it’s just nice to talk with people who have the same thoughts.

  5. I am so glad you are starting to put all of these thoughts out there. As I said before when we have talked don’t think that because you go into a wrestling match with God that you will always come out with your answers. You will come out with something…just be prepared that it might be still more questions. Just speaking from experience on that one. I love you and I thank God daily that He, in His infinite wisdom, saw to bring us together under the strangest of circumstances.

  6. YAY OH YAY- how exciting that you started a blog, Amber! I love how you look at the everyday things of life and find God in all you do and then explain it to the rest of us so easily!

    Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent years wrestling with God- and yet it often turns out I am only wrestling with myself, wrestling with my past, wrestling with my will. I completely love your insight that we must be completely emptied of our own wants, desires, agendas before we can even hope to hear Him.

    For me, it is in the emptying that I wrestle. Getting my will out of the way in order to hear and obey! When I get it right, the blessings continually amaze me! When I get in the way, well, my self-will (in light of all evidence of how wrong I can be) continually amazes me as well! 🙂

    Thanks, Amber!

  7. Amber, I am privileged to have you as one of my spiritual leaders. You have an excellent gift for wisdom and discerning God’s word. I can’t wait to see all the things He reveals to you and Adam for our second year. We will always have your back!

  8. I would love to address this with words of my own, but I believe Francis Chan says it best:
    “Colossians 1:16 tells us that everything was created for God: ‘For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.’
    Don’t we live instead as though God is created for us, to do our bidding, to bless us, and to take care of our loved ones?
    Psalm 115:3 reveals, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” Yet we keep on questioning Him: “Why did You make me with this body, instead of that one?” “Why are so many people dying of starvation?” “Why are there so many planets with nothing living on them?” “Why is my family so messed up?” “Why don’t you make Yourself more obvious to the people who need You?”
    The answer to each of these questions is simply this: because He’s God. He has more of a right to ask us why so many people are starving. As much as we want God to explain himself to us, His creation, we are in no place to demand that He give an account to us.
    All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
    Can you worship a God who isn’t obligated to explain His actions to you? Could it be your arrogance that makes you think God owes you an explanation?”

    I haven’t always been able to accept an answer such as this. But as years give me wisdom, I am beginning to see and understand (and ACCEPT) that God and all His creation is so beyond my understanding that there is no room left in my heart to question him.
    HE IS GOD…more than I’ll ever understand, until one day I see him face to face…
    and without words all will be revealed to me.

  9. I don’t have a long response or comment for this blog, just this. Thank you, You have given me the permission to “have it out” with God. Or in other words, letting go of myself.

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