Devotion for March 23, 2021 from Tori Valcarcel, Ministry in Context Student for CTK and HTLC:
Wrestling With Faith
I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine. It was a conversation that lasted many hours, and had many pauses, because it happened while we were hiking. Among the many topics that came up was that of faith. This friend was born and raised in a Christian church for much of their life, but they have not believed in any kind of god, much less God, for a while. And so the conversation turned to faith, and belief, and spirituality outside of a religious tradition. The thing is, they are struggling right now (although, who isn’t?), with finding reason and meaning in what seems like the never ending cycle of violence and pain that we see and hear around us 24/7.
They asked me how I have faith, how I can continue to wake up every day and attend seminary online across the country, how I can commit my time and energy to a calling that is not what one would call easy.
I didn’t have an easy answer for them. I have the same questions myself most days. It did make me think though, about a particular story from Genesis, that has been sitting in the back of my mind lately. It’s the story of Jacob and the place he named Peniel. The story in Genesis 32:22-32 doesn’t give too much detail about the exact identity of the person (or being) Jacob wrestles with throughout the night, but that’s not the important part of the story to me right now.
What sticks out is the struggle- the wrestling that leaves Jacob a changed man. Both physically and spiritually he has wrestled with and been changed by things divine. Bearing a new name and the scars of his struggle, Jacob (now Israel) moves forward on his journey. But many of us are still in that night of struggle, waiting for dawn. We may not know the name or face of the things we wrestle with, or maybe they have names like depression, or poverty, or illness, but to struggle with these things is not a reason to despair. Having questions and doubts, fearing the unknown, turning to God in resentment or as a last hope, these are all just part of the wrestling. It doesn’t make it easier, but it is a reminder that we believe in the embodied Christ, the Emmanuel who came to heal bodies and spirits, a God who is with us when we struggle physically and spiritually.
I pray that you are sustained and fortified, that your struggles may lead you to a place of blessing, that you are reminded of the coming dawn and the remembrance that our God has scars, too.
Yours in Christ,