My wife and I are in a study at church in which you read the Bible from cover to cover in 90 days. If that sounds crazy, that’s because it is. It is quite the experience though, and quite the challenge. It’s challenging not only practically (carving out an hour to read every day) but also spiritually.
Frequently in the Hebrew scriptures, at least early on, the covenant seems to be hanging by a mere thread. On some occasions that thread is threatened by the behavior of the people involved (Abraham is a classic example). At others it’s God who threatens to cut the cord and start over. In the former instances, one is able to attribute grace to God and find the lesson there. However, the times where the Israelites are saved from destruction only through the individual bargaining of Moses, for example, are more troubling.
Other passages relate God as one who regrets his actions, sends “lying spirits”, or curses individuals for seemingly innocuous acts.
Sometimes you read and wonder, “what God are we dealing with here?”
The reading brought me back to a place where I hadn’t been in a long time. Several years ago, right out of college, I came to a point where I thought the whole Christian thing was a sham and tossed the whole thing out. I didn’t question scripture so much as see it as irrelevant. I didn’t stop believing in God, but I stopped believing in a God that made sense. I saw the cliff dividing faith and doubt and stayed on the doubt side of the cliff, choosing not to jump.
Reading the Bible in this drag-race “no holds barred” way brought me back to that same cliff I had been to so long ago. It was not a comfortable place to be. This time, however, the pain came mostly from remembering the experiences I had around me at that time. I had felt like a broken person, and felt that God had done the breaking. Now I approach the cliff much more whole, but still felt that I was revisiting the concentration camp years after being liberated.
All Christians struggle with faith and doubt. If you haven’t, I think you need to. Jacob’s wrestling with God (or angel or whatever) was not an accident, and neither was it a hindrance to him. It was a significant event in his journey, and marked him for the rest of his life. It’s remarkable to note that after his encounter, Jacob notes that he had confronted God and yet his life was spared (Gen 32:30).
Struggling with God does leave scars, doubts, uncertainty, anger and fear. However doing these things do not mean that we are afraid to step off the cliff of faith, but have maybe stepped out further than we ever had before. And lived.