Is it okay to “duke it out” with God? Some Bible teachers encourage their students to “get in the ring” with God and get “it” out. These are teachers I admire, but I have struggled with their point. In some ways, yes, I get it. If I have a beef with God, I ought to go directly to Him. He sees my heart. He knows when I’m miffed, and I might as well fess up. And yet, in other ways, the idea of putting up my fists and fighting with God simply brings shivers of trepidation up and down my spine. Really.
God is Almighty. Holy.
He is awesome in power and wisdom and might, and there is none like Him. He is righteous. Above all. He is the Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent.
When I think of “duking it out” with God, I think of guys from the Bible like Jacob and Job. Jacob wrestled with God. Then he limped for the rest of his life:
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Genesis 32:24-25
As a result, Jacob’s name was changed:
Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God… Genesis 32:28
A dude who strives with God. Not sure I want my name to reflect, “a dame who dukes it out with God.”
Understandably, he cried out to God in great pain and misery. He longed to present his defense before God face to face. But God’s in-the-midst-of-a-storm response to Job causes me to want to run for cover:
“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Job 38:2-3
So are we to “duke it out” with God?
Last week, I asked that very question wondering “where does reverence for my Holy Maker fit” into the scenario. Several of you resonated with these same questions.
Therefore, I’d like to share something I learned this week about a particular “duke it out” process.
Knowing my dilemma, a friend from Bible study caught me after class. She was excited to share with me. Her illustration works marvelously. (Hence, I’m grateful to her. And I’m so grateful that God puts us in the body of Christ that we might learn and serve and grow together! Amen?)
I’m excited to share her story.
My friend is a petite little thing. Furthermore, she’s a woman who genuinely exudes the gentle and quiet spirit of the kind Peter describes:
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. I Peter 3:3-4
This girl radiates God’s beauty. But don’t mess with her. She spars. In rings.
As a result, she testifies:
I do martial arts, and I want to tell you about sparring. When I am in the ring with my instructor, I feel as though I am in the safest place in the world.”
“When I am in the ring with my instructor, I feel as though I am in the safest place in the world.”
Immediately I’m intrigued.
My instructor weighs over two hundred pounds. He’s a big guy. But when I get into the ring, I feel perfectly safe. Why? Because he knows what he is doing. He is there to teach me. And he will protect me. I know that I can spar with him, and he will not hurt me. I trust him.
As I share with her my concern for a spirit of “reverence” in approaching God, she assures me that within the martial arts sparring ring, there is a great sense of honor and respect.
Having lived in Asia, I comprehend how even the most tenacious student would revere his or her martial arts instructor. Her words re-orient my mind, albeit slowly. For years, my “duke it out” picture is the all out brawl in the school hallway.
The more I ponder, the more I adore my friend’s analogy. She spars… dukes it out with her instructor. And she is safe.
Consequently, I take another look at Job.
This time I see the big ring with the earth being God’s sanctuary. And there is “little” Job. He’s hurting. Angry. In pain. He is struck down, but not destroyed, and asks to defend his case before God.
Into the ring, looms the Master Instructor.
Let’s pause as God enters the conversation and remember that right here and right now the Master could simply lay Job out with a word. One word. Job’s down. For good.
Rather, with query after query, God, the Master Instructor, simply returns Job’s sparring words. It’s an amazing portion of Scripture that nearly leaves me breathless. A masterful reminder that God’s ways are ever higher:
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7
With the longest list of questions in Scripture, God continues the challenge. But notice: Job is safe. This is not the school hall brawl where Job gets the “snot beat out of him.” Opposite of a brawl is a sparring match. God does not hurt Job. He instructs.
Ever put your foot in your mouth? Notice Job’s humble and appropriate response:
I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2-6
“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (v.3)
And then notice how God deals with Job.
He protects. When Job has had enough and the “match” is over, it’s as if God tells Job’s friends, “That’s my man.” God’s got Job’s back. He rebukes them for their own pride and folly. And He even puts Job in the position of intercessor for them:
“I am angry with you… because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”
‘Atta boy, Job!
God even blesses Job:
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. Job 42:12
Consider David. David was a fighter, a warrior. He could surely “spar.” Reconsidering his lament psalms, I can see a man sparring similar to Job. He honestly “dukes it out” by bringing his complaint before the Lord. Yet his complaint always includes a respectful affirmation of trust in His LORD.
Psalm 131 is not a psalm of lament, but perhaps it provides a clue as to the benefits of getting into the ring with God:
My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. Psalm 131
‘Atta boy, David!” A man after God’s heart.
Is it okay to duke it out with God? To spar with Him? Not pretending to have all the answers, I’ll continue to ponder.
Yet for now, with utmost humility and respect for my Master and Teacher, I agree: “Get in the ring. It’s the safest place in the world.”
Father God Almighty,
I praise You. Not only are You our Master Teacher, You are the Protector and Lover of our Souls. You sent Your Son to spar on our behalf. By the cross, You conquered sin and death. You saved me. Saved us. And now You promise that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Thank You. Thank You, Jesus. We call to You. This Palm Sunday, we remember and celebrate Who You are: our King of kings and Lord of lords.
Hosanna to the Highest! Hosanna!
Want to know more about how to “safely” spar with God? Try a lament psalm.
Yesterday, Two Girls and a Pearl subscribers received a “Lament Lesson” in their inbox. (Even Jesus turned to a psalm of lament in His suffering. A worthy prayer to ponder for Holy Week.) If you missed out and would like to learn more, simply sign up here.