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Wrestling in the Spirit

Abstract: There is an ongoing struggle between the theologically-oriented viewpoint of our Christianity and the healing-oriented viewpoint of our Christianity. Is there room in our biblical viewpoint for both? Is there room in God's plan for Christian Counselor's to be able to reconcile the differences, and grasp both sides of the evangelical/healing debate? Using the analogy of wrestling, the author addresses the debate, using theological methodology and his counseling experience to show both sides of the coin, and the dangers of holding one side as more 'important' than the other.

There is a picture of the Christian warrior ready to do battle that many have: Adorned in the armor of God, ready to battle evil. This warrior, this mentality of Christianity, for the purposes of this discussion, I shall label, "Wrestling against Evil". There is a plethora of scriptural references and support for this image and lifestyle attitude.

Yet many Christian healers, myself included, deal with those for whom that image has been incomplete, unfulfilled and unfulfilling. We find ourselves working with and getting paid to listen to those who can no longer accept the picture above as their own reality. Healers especially know that there is another spiritual wrestling match going on, which for the purposes of this discussion, I shall label, "Wrestling against God". I propose that this has much scriptural backing. Because we have ignored it theologically, we find it in the reality of many lives. God hits us with that part of God's reality that we ignore!

I became unsatisfied with the Christian warrior viewpoint, when I read parts of scripture that I was supposed to use when evangelizing others. You know, that part about "there is none righteous, not one." How could I be a warrior for God if I am not righteous? If I am not righteous, I am not a knight in shining armor, either! Even worse, what was I fighting for? Didn't Jesus win the war at the cross? Didn't He say "it is finished"? What could I add to what he had done? I had developed what I call the "Battle of New Orleans" syndrome. The war was already over, and those ignorant of that fact fought another battle. I'm glad we won, but if they had known that the English had already surrendered, that America had already won the War of 1812 ...

In addition, I knew of my personal pride and arrogance. It was not unusual for my old self to fight the wrong side! I do not surrender easily. I noticed that I was fighting God, and wondered what that meant. The good news is that when you fight God, wearing His armor, He knows where the kinks are and how to get to you. God's armor doesn't protect you from God. Well, enough rambling, let's move on. Let's look at the main scripture references for each viewpoint.

Wrestling against Evil: A popular verse, that paints this picture well, is Ephesians 6:12-17, repeated here in the New King James Version:

(Ephesians 6:12-17) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints;

Wrestling Against God: A popular verse, that paints this picture well, is Genesis 32:22 et al, repeated here in the New King James Version:

(Gen 32:22 NKJV) And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.

Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.

And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"

So He said to him, "What is your name?" He said, "Jacob."

And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."

Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray." And He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name?" And He blessed him there.

And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."

Wow. One of those reads with excitement, determination, boldness and an eye for victory and accomplishment. The other reads like a mud-wrestling match. One is all pretty picture, the other is ugly action. One is a heavenly image, the other is down-to-earth reality. Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two sections of scripture. I look at them each through seven different 'lenses' to better understand them. I also want to show that the struggle here is not God's, but ours. If you embrace only the popular one, as I did for many years, you may be doing the other, unpopular one in reality with no intention of surrendering. Ouch!

Main Scriptural Source for Wrestling Against Evil: Ephesians 6. New Testament reference, and is viewed as authoritative by Christians. Jews and Moslems give it less authority.

Main Scriptural Source for Wrestling Against God: Genesis 32. Old Testament reference, specifically from the book of Genesis, and as such is viewed as authoritative by Christians, Jews and Moslems.

Address of Source for Wrestling Against Evil: This comes from an `epistle’, or a `written sermon’, and may be labeled as a `sermon’ or `intellectual’ dissertation.

Address of Source for Wrestling Against God: This comes from a historical narrative as relayed by Moses, and as such is someone's experience, allegorical and instructive.

Wrestling Against Evil appeals to our: This appeals to our intellect, or our `mind’, which God calls us to renew. This is glorious.

Wrestling Against God appeals to our: nothing. This is based on that part of us which must 'accept' what is as reality. This is humbling. It is not appealing.

Emotional Atmosphere generated by picturing Wrestling against Evil: Determination, Positive Mental Attitude, Faith, Victory, Self-Righteousness.

Emotional Atmosphere generated by picturing Wrestling against God: Confession of sin, admission of the persistence of the old creature and of preference for doing things 'our way'.

Goal of Wrestling against Evil: To win, to emerge victorious for God's glory! To do God well! To be a leader in the forefront of God's army.

Goal of Wrestling against God: To know the truth, to reach the point of true surrender, to reach submission and obedience, to become a servant.

Focus of Wrestling against Evil: The Gospel, Faith, Salvation, Word, Personal Victory and Glory.

Focus of Wrestling against God: Your relationship with God: as peers or as master/servant. Your humanity, God's compassion and mercy.

Relational Consequences of Wrestling against Evil: Binds us to the strong. At times even distances us from the weak, fallen, defeated and even injured amongst us. And if we fail in some way, this view offers little compassion or mercy or forgiveness.

Relational Consequences of Wrestling against God: Binds us to the weak, the lonely, the poor, the humble, the defeated. It may even distance us from those that appear strong, victorious and powerful.

So, which one is right? It is a trick question. The key is not which one is right, the key is do you have the two balanced in your life? You do? Great! But, I wonder if you answered the question too quickly, without looking inwardly before answering. Nothing personal, it's just that I was raised to answer questions quickly because that made me look intelligent. True, except that it also made me look shallow. Both were true, I was intelligent and shallow. I want to change that and offer you the same challenge. Ask yourself again, are these balanced in your life? I don't need the answer, you do. Remember the motto for this website: "Helping Others Achieve Balance in an Unbalanced World"