A black and white image captures a solitary figure, kneeling in a desolate landscape, their outstretched arms reaching towards the heavens, symbolizing the struggle and connection between humanity and divinity.

We Who Wrestle With God: Finding Meaning In Our Spiritual Struggles

Have you ever felt like you were wrestling with God? Spiritual struggles can leave us feeling alone and overwhelmed. But take heart – even biblical heroes like Jacob wrestled with God. This profound experience of ‘holy wrestling’ has deepened the faith of many over the centuries.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the meaning behind wrestling with God – from tips on persevering through doubt to finding growth in tension. You’ll discover you’re not alone in this holy struggle – and that wrestling with God is part of the journey into greater spiritual maturity.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Wrestling with God is a common experience where we grapple with doubts, tensions and uncertainties in our spiritual journey. It can lead to spiritual growth if we persevere in faith.

Many biblical figures like Jacob experienced holy wrestling – showing this is part of deepening spirituality.

The Biblical Origins of Wrestling With God

Jacob’s experience at Jabbok

One of the most well-known Biblical stories of struggling with God comes from Genesis 32. Jacob, grandson of Abraham, was fleeing from his angry brother Esau. The night before the confrontation, Jacob wrestles all night with a divine being, not letting go until he receives a blessing.

Jacob emerges with a new name, Israel, meaning “one who struggled with God.” This story illustrates the concept of earnestly striving or contending with the divine to find meaning and transformation.

Moses’ prophetic calling

When God first calls Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt in Exodus 3-4, Moses resists and argues, doubting his abilities. He engages in an intense back-and-forth with God, wrestling with his calling. God patiently answers Moses’ misgivings until Moses accepts the difficult mission.

Moses continues to boldly intercede, question and reason with God on Israel’s behalf throughout his leadership. His example shows the importance of voicing our doubts to work through them.

Jeremiah’s lamentations

The prophet Jeremiah penned the Old Testament book bearing his name as well as Lamentations, poignantly expressing his anguish and grief over Judah’s destruction by Babylon. Jeremiah accuses God of betrayal and repeatedly questions His allowance of evil and suffering.

Through his raw lamentations, Jeremiah voices the deepest pains of the human heart but ultimately affirms trust in God’s compassion. His writings model crying out to God in despair while still seeking meaning.

Habakkuk’s bold questioning

The minor prophet Habakkuk fiercely interrogates God about injustice and suffering, wondering why God does not respond to Judah’s wickedness. Yet by the end of his eloquent book, Habakkuk determines to trust in God’s sovereignty and righteous plans that remain unseen.

His example encourages honestly laying our complaints and doubts before God while waiting patiently for God’s resolution in due time.

Common Causes of Spiritual Struggles

Feeling distant from God

It’s not uncommon for people of faith to sometimes feel distant from God or sense an absence of His presence (source). This can happen during times of hardship, grief, stress, or even for no apparent reason. Feeling disconnected spiritually often leads people to question their beliefs or worthiness.

Maintaining spiritual disciplines like prayer, scripture reading, and community worship helps bridge the gap during these desert experiences.

Doubt and uncertainty

Questioning one’s faith from time to time is normal. However, prolonged doubt and uncertainty over spiritual matters like the existence of God, accuracy of scriptures, or purpose in life can negatively impact mental health (source).

Speaking with mentors, reading apologetics resources, and asking sincere questions rather than bottling up doubt is key to working through seasons of uncertainty.

Suffering and the problem of evil

When a loving God allows bad things to happen, it often rattles people spiritually. In fact, the existence of evil and suffering causes more people to lose their faith than any other issue (source). Yet Scripture shows how God can redeem suffering.

Connecting with others undergoing trials, volunteering to alleviate suffering, and trusting God’s sovereignty during hardship can helptransform tough times into spiritual growth.

Changes in beliefs and values

As people mature and gain new experiences, their ideologies and worldviews often shift. Changes in moral, social, political or theological beliefs that mark a departure from childhood faith can cause intense inner turmoil.

Open, non-judgmental dialogue with trusted advisers helps navigate seismic shifts in perspective. Moreover, reading widely and asking sincere questions aids the process of reformulating beliefs and values.

Perceived silence from God

God seems strangely silent when we pray urgently for guidance, deliverance or answers during crises. Yet divine quietness does not imply divine absence, rather God may be orchestrating solutions in ways we don’t yet see (source).

Like walking through fog, we can either panic or calmly continue trusting the path ahead will be revealed in time. Though disconcerting, God’s perceived inactivity can purify motives and build patient endurance.

Mindsets for Enduring Spiritual Wrestling

Accept the tension

Wrestling with difficult questions of faith and meaning is inevitable in one’s spiritual journey. Rather than resisting it, accept that tension is part of the process of spiritual growth (Crosswalk, 2023). View your doubts not as a crisis of faith but an opportunity to go deeper.

Let the tension push you closer to God rather than further away. Stay grounded in spiritual practices like prayer and scripture reading while continuing to ask tough questions.

Hold onto faith

Even when you feel like giving up, hold onto your faith (CBN, 2023). Remember that God is with you in the struggle, even when you can’t sense His presence clearly. Recall past experiences where your faith was strengthened in a time of wrestling.

Talk to spiritual mentors who have endured seasons of doubt and longing without giving up on God. Though the process is painful, view it as a transformative crucible rather than a reason to walk away from your faith.

Cry out to God honestly

Pour out your heart honestly before God, holding nothing back. Like Jacob who literally wrestled with God in Genesis 32, be real with Him about all your feelings, doubts, fears, frustrations and anger. Resist the urge to sanitize or sugarcoat what you say.

Your raw and messy prayers can lead to divine breakthroughs and blessings you never anticipated (Christianity Today, 2023). As you wrestle in prayer, listen also for God’s still, small voice speaking into your struggle.

Seek support and guidance

You don’t need to wrestle alone. Seek out trusted friends, mentors, counselors and pastors to walk alongside you (Barbara Garner Music, 2022). Give them permission to ask hard questions and speak candidly into your life.

Set up regular times for spiritual direction to process your wrestling more deeply. Join a small group where you can “wrestle out loud” with fellow sojourners. Guidance from others who have endured spiritual crises can help you navigate yours.

Reflect on growth over perfection

As you wrestle over time, reflect more on the growth you’re experiencing than demanding clear answers or a perfect outcome. Journal about insights, lessons and changes emerging in you along the way. Discuss with a mentor the ways God seems to be maturing you through the struggle.

Keep taking next faithful steps while trusting God with the big picture. Stay patient with yourself and God in the process. Over half of adults under 30 (56%) who wrestle with doubts end up experiencing spiritual growth rather than walking away from faith (Fuller Studio, 2021).

Finding Deeper Maturity Through the Struggle

Developing humility and surrender

Wrestling with doubts and unanswered questions can cultivate humility, as we realize the limits of our understanding about God and life (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As we surrender our need to control outcomes, we make room for God’s guidance and develop patience.

Research shows that letting go of ego and surrendering to a higher power relieves stress and brings peace.

Gaining new understanding of God

Spiritual struggles often stem from unmet expectations about how God should act. Yet they can lead to a new vision of God when we open our hearts to fresh revelation. We may find that God is not a force answering to our beck and call, but a mystery walking with us through both joy and pain.

The 20th century Christian writer C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Strengthening resilience and persistence

Like an athlete who builds muscle through resistance training, we can build spiritual stamina as we wrestle with doubts instead of avoiding them. Studies by Barna research found that nearly two-thirds of Christians say their relationship with God is stronger after going through a time of spiritual difficulty.

Our faith deepens as we learn to lean into God in times of uncertainty.

Cultivating compassion and empathy

When we encounter pain on the spiritual path, we gain new appreciation for the inner battles others face in secret. The struggle sensitizes us to the quiet agony people carry inside despite outward appearances (1 Peter 5:8-10).

We can translate our experience into compassion, comfort and encouragement for others in need (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Deepening relationship with God

Spiritual dryness and doubt, as painful as they are, often serve to strip away superficiality and kindle a life-giving authenticity in relationship with God. Author Gerald May observed that as we fully engage our genuine questions and feelings of distance from God, we can enter more realistically intimate connection with the divine.

Like the velveteen rabbit whose shabby, well-worn state reveals his status as a beloved companion, our spiritual bedragglement may signal that we have become true intimates of the living God.

When to Seek Help for Spiritual Struggles

Prolonged hopelessness/despair

Feeling down or hopeless from time to time is normal, but if these feelings persist for weeks or months, it may be time to reach out for help. Prolonged despair can take a toll on both your mental and physical health.

Consider talking to a counselor, pastor or doctor if the darkness feels like it’s closing in.

Losing interest in relationships

Isolation and withdrawal are common symptoms of depression. If you’ve lost motivation to connect with friends and family, it’s a red flag. We are hardwired for human connection. Try setting up a coffee date or going for a walk with a friend.

If your disinterest persists, seek professional counsel to get to the root of the problem.

Abandoning spiritual practices completely

Feeling apathetic about prayer, worship or service? It’s normal for engagement to ebb and flow. But if you’ve completely given up on spiritual disciplines, it may indicate a bigger issue. Seek guidance from mature believers about restoring a sense of meaning and purpose.

Remind yourself that seasons of spiritual dryness are temporary.

Self-harm or suicidal thoughts

If you’re considering harming yourself or taking your own life, get help immediately. Call a suicide hotline, 911 or go to the emergency room. You are deeply loved and your life has purpose. With counseling and medication, you can overcome these dark thoughts.

There is hope for complete healing and restoration.

Debilitating anxiety/depression

Mental illness often manifests through spiritual struggles. If everyday tasks feel impossible or you can’t get out of bed, see a doctor for an assessment. Counseling and/or medication may help regulate brain chemistry so you can regain stability and start enjoying life again.

With professional treatment, you can live fruitfully despite mental illness.


Wrestling with God is a mysterious, yet profoundly common human experience – one shared by saints and prophets throughout history. With the right perspective and support, seasons of holy wrestling can become times that deepen our faith and draw us closer to God.

If you find yourself wrestling, take heart. You are in good company. Approach God honestly in prayer and surround yourself with supportive community. The tension may not disappear quickly. But if you perseveringly seek growth over perfection, you’ll emerge stronger and wiser.

The ‘wounds’ of your wrestling may even become holy ground where you meet God in new ways. So take courage and wrestle on. God can handle your doubt, anger and confusion. Your willingness to engage authentically is itself an act of faith.

As you weather this season, you’ll develop spiritual muscles and empathy you never knew you had. And you can rest assured that the God who inhabits eternity is big enough to meet you in the wrestling – until one day you can say like Jacob, ‘I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’

The holy wrestling will one day give way to blessed rest in the arms of a God who was always nearer than you realized. Take heart – you are not alone. God is with you in the struggle.

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