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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Today’s Reading | Genesis 32:22–32

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle. (NRSV)

Jacob’s struggle through the night is at once uncomfortable and familiar. He fought a darkness that pushed faith and fortitude to a seeming breaking point or culmination. I think of times when I’ve wrestled with internal or external uncertainty and transition, unable to clearly visualize, comprehend, or control.

In the book Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, Sister Joan Chittister—a fellow struggler—relates her own battle with uncertainty and self-doubt to that of Jacob: “If struggle is the process of evolution from spiritual emptiness to spiritual wisdom, hope is the process as well.” Chittister invites us revisit our struggles so that we might remember the way to new life the next time our hearts turn again to clay, “as surely they will.” Perhaps I can accept times of struggle as part of the journey of faith and spiritual growth. Is there a particular struggle I face now wherein I can enlist God’s help as ally and guide to help me move forward, trusting in possibility?

God’s promise isn’t a life without darkness or struggle. What God promises is something beyond the darkness: the light of love, redemption, and new beginning.

Gracious God, through the example of Jesus’ love and life, may I come to trust your promise and love. Help me gain courage and wisdom and to be transformed by hope. Amen.

Written by Laura Sterkel, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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