Sermon: “Striving with God and Men” (Genesis 32:22–32)
Philosophers have long wrestled with the so-called “problem of evil.” In a nutshell, the problem of evil raises a thorny dilemma: If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and absolutely good, then how can evil still exist? Or, from the opposite perspective, if evil does exist, then how can we say that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and absolutely good? This is not a purely theoretical question that is relegated to the ivory towers of academia, but an intensely practical question that all of us intuitively feel throughout our lives. How do we reconcile the suffering we experience with what the Bible teaches about God’s goodness?
To be sure, the Bible does not give us simplistic answers to such a complicated question. Instead of offering tidy logical proofs to explain away the philosophical problem of evil, the Scriptures reframe the issue as a theological paradox of suffering. God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and absolutely good, and yet, suffering does exist. God is not the author of evil, nor does he tempt anyone to sin, but he is nevertheless sovereign over our suffering. The story of Jacob’s wrestling match with God in Genesis 32 takes this paradox one step further. In this narrative, we discover that our lifelong struggle to make sense of our suffering is not so much a philosophical question about the circumstances of our lives, but more so an intense, personal struggle to come to terms with God, face to face. The paradox of suffering jarringly sets our real, deep, vile pain right alongside God’s intimate, wise, and gracious purposes for our lives: God wrestles with us to remake us.