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Jacob’s Sleepless Night

When a loving father lets his little boy tackle him to the ground or match muscles in arm wrestling, we don’t expect to see dad suddenly subject his young son to a painful arm twist or body slam.

So why then do so many of us feel roughed up, abandoned, and even left for dead by our Father in heaven?

That question might help us weigh a series of troubles that led a man named Jacob to an especially dark and sleepless night. While wondering if he was about to die at the hands of an angry brother, Jacob suddenly found himself wrestling with a physical sense of God’s presence—all night long.

The Backstory

Twenty years earlier, Jacob had left home to avoid being killed by his older brother whom he had cheated out of the family inheritance. With his father’s blessing, he had fled to Syria to find refuge, and hopefully a wife, among his mother’s family (Genesis 28:1-4).

What Jacob ended up with was more than he had bargained for. Over the next few years he got the kind of treatment he had given his brother. The uncle who became Jacob’s employer and father-in-law not only cheated him out of promised wages, but he even switched daughters on Jacob’s wedding night.

Yet in spite of all of the wrongs done to Jacob, he still prospered. He saw God’s favor on him even though he probably couldn’t explain why (Genesis 31:4-7). He must have thought often about the dream he’d had shortly after leaving home. In this vision, he heard the voice of God promising to protect and provide for him—until returning him safely to his father’s house (Genesis 28:11-15). At the time, Jacob resolved that if the vision came to pass, he would make the Lord of his fathers his God (Genesis 28:16-21).

In the years that followed, the vision began to come true. Jacob slowly began to see that God was being more faithful in taking care of him than he had been in trusting God.

Then Jacob had another dream. This time he heard God say that it was time to go home (Genesis 31:13). But going back wasn’t easy. Jacob had accumulated wives, 12 children, and large herds of livestock. To complicate matters even more, along the way, Jacob learned that his estranged brother was coming to meet him with 400 men (Genesis 32:6).

Jacob Meets His Match

As the sun set on Jacob’s worries, the darkness must have deepened his feelings of being alone and afraid. But he wasn’t by himself for long. Suddenly he found himself wrestling with a mysterious “Man” who seemed to appear out of nowhere (Genesis 32:24). The struggle that followed seemed to be without end. For hour after hour, Jacob and his mysterious contender fought to a stalemate.

Finally, just before daybreak, the unidentified wrestler said he had to go and, with a mere touch, put Jacob’s hip out of joint. But Jacob held on. Sensing the greatness and goodness of his visitor, Jacob insisted on being blessed.

Jacob’s Blessing

Jacob got the mercy he was begging for, and more. The “Man” who wouldn’t give His name gave Jacob a new name. For as long as his story was told, Jacob would be known as Israel, a struggler with both God and man, who had survived only by heaven’s mercy (Genesis 32:27-29).

The promise came with evidence. The bloodbath that Jacob feared at the hands of Esau and his 400 companions never happened. Instead, Esau welcomed him home with a tearful embrace.

Yet Jacob got more than a new name and merciful reunion. He also got a limp and broken stride that reminded him of the night he had wrestled with God and lived to tell about it. As painful as his new walk might have been, it would be a reminder to both Jacob and his family of how gentle God is and how low the Father of fathers is willing to bend to show mercy to a mess of a man (Genesis 32:31-32).

Yet the sleepless night that Jacob spent wrestling in the arms of God was only a faint hint of how far God would go to rescue people like him—and us.

Jesus’ Sleepless Night

In heaven’s own time, in a garden called Gethsemane, one of Jacob’s descendants would have His own sleepless night. Once again, as the darkness descended on Israel, the night brought dread and terror. This time, though, the fears had a different source and outcome. Jacob worried about having to face the consequences of his own wrongs. Jesus struggled in anticipation of paying the price of Jacob’s sins—and ours (Matthew 26:36-44). Jacob clung desperately to the “Man” for blessing on his own life. Jesus pled with His Father to withhold the cup of suffering that was necessary to make Him a blessing for the whole world. Jacob’s persistent pleas for mercy were honored with a new name. Jesus’ surrender to the Father’s loving will was honored with a Name that is above every name (Philippians 2:7-11).

Father in heaven, thank You for helping us to see in Jacob—and in Your Son Jesus—that, even in the desperate struggles of the darkest moments of our lives, You are holding us in the loving embrace of Your eternal strength and presence.

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33 Responses to “Jacob’s Sleepless Night”

  1. remarutho says:

    Good Evening BTA Folks –

    It seems to me humans may “feel roughed up, abandoned, and even left for dead by our Father in heaven,” as you put it, because we are not able to see with eternal eyes, as God does. Divine character has no analog in humanity.

    Jesus was present in the heavenly fellowship at the time of Jacob’s dark night of struggle. Mart, you wrote:

    “Jacob worried about having to face the consequences of his own wrongs.” It seems to me Jacob had plenty of prayers for self-preservation and safety – yet this angel (man) from the Lord showed him the greater character of his Creator. He was struggling in a match he could never “win.” He could only hold on.

    There are more differences than similarities between Jacob’s and Jesus’ long dark night, it seems to me. Can we be sure that Jesus’ cry for God to “remove this cup” reflected feelings of self-preservation? He was asking his disciples for the fellowship and support of prayer, yet he found them sound asleep when he returned to them. Jesus knew the purpose of his earthly existence was about to be fulfilled. The subject of his fervent prayer, it seems to me, concerns the overall betrayal that was taking place at the temple and at the house of the chief pries, and perhaps right there in the garden.

    Jesus told Judas “what you are going to do, do quickly.” Mart, you put it this way:

    “Jesus struggled in anticipation of paying the price of Jacob’s sins—and ours (Matthew 26:36-44).”

    It is surely so. Jacob’s struggle with the angel, it appears to me, was a time of learning who God is. Jesus, himself God, may have been divinely motivated to intercede for all of creation in Gethsemane. His human companions were not up to the demands of Jesus’ praying. He “wrestled” intimately with God in a way beyond human comprehension. Jesus spent many sleepless nights in his lifetime. He told the disciples, “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (John 16:32-33)


  2. BruceC says:

    At some point we all struggle with God. It is our fallen nature that wants to view God through our own eyes and our own desires for ourselves and not His desires for us. He uses whatever means He deems necessary to get our “attention”; such as Jacob’s touch to his hip. Reminds me of the Potter and the clay.
    I guess I could sum up my response in two words….grace and mercy. None of us deserve either.

    Mercy….Reminds me of the difference between 28 deg. this morning and below zero yesterday morning!

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  3. SFDBWV says:

    Logic: a word, reckoning, thought; a way of reasoning; necessary connection or outcome as through the working of cause and effect.

    Logical: expected results; correct reasoning.

    One thing that has rang true from the time Matthew could talk again, his logic has been unarguable flavored with little idiosyncrasies that makes sense only to him.

    Matthew wrestles every day between believing there is a God and *reasoning* that there is not. He struggles with the idea that a good and loving God would not leave him in the unhappy and miserable condition he is aware of for a life.

    In an attempt to make sense of things he has decided that if there is a God that God doesn’t care about him, but asks God to bless the others on his list.

    His logic is logical.

    When you talk with a non believer about the love of God then tell them that Jesus His only begotten son was allowed to be tortured and put to death in such a fashion, they see the whole idea as *unreasonable*.

    When we look at the story of Jacob we see God blessing a man who didn’t deserve it, even allowing him to father a nation of people much like him.

    When we look at the story of Jesus we see God blessing all of mankind, who also don’t deserve it, at the cost of His own Son.

    It would seem that God does not follow the same logic as man.

    Strange as it is once we accept it that God is God and we are not, that Jesus is who He said He is and that somewhere at the end of all our suffering it will all make sense, we can have peace.

    A peace that surpasses understanding and is quite *illogical*.


  4. oneg2dblu says:

    Funny how whae we consider a long life in these earthly tents is but a less than a dot on the page of eternity.
    To think we are but a vapor compasred to the reslity of Heaven make all our possible thoughts combined of little significasnce compared to God’s great plan for us.
    Even our understanding of time as being controled or measured by the tic-toc of some manmade clock is not beyond understasnding for a God who lives outside of time.
    Where we worry about being a tic late for an appointment made in our worldly timing, God is not only concerned with us about our daily needs, but also our eternsl ones.
    Consider this, He knows our every moment and He is there with each of us ready willing and able to give us anything we ask, and He always answers our prayers or asking,
    with a perfect answer, either, Yes, No, or Wait.
    Perhaps the hardest of all is to sit next to that ever ticking clock, just waiting…


  5. oneg2dblu says:

    When we pray for something that is within the Will of God for us we are to pray as if we already have attained it.
    It seems to me that God has taken the waiting quotient out of the equation of even thinking our prayers are not heard immediately by Him, making His ear always attentive to our needs, even giving us the Holy Spirit that prays for us when we can not pray for ourselves.
    Living in obedience to the Holy Spirit is where we can know we have a Peace that surpasses all understanding.
    That is how we know we can pray continuously as we are obediently living Under the Influence of the Holy Spirit, we are also living well within God’s Will for us.


  6. bubbles says:

    Gary, you wrote, “When we pray for something that is within the will of God for us, we are to pray as if we already have attained it.”

    Do you have a verse that tells us to pray in this manner? I ask because I have heard this before. It’s similar to a name and claim a promise. But I don’t have a verse to back up these words. Maybe you can help me with this.
    Thank you.

  7. oneg2dblu says:

    Bubbles… I like to think of the wholeness combined in all the lessons on prayer, in Matthew 21:22 (NIV)
    “If you believe you will recieve whatever you ask for in prayer.”

    Matthew 7:7,8 (NIV) ” Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

    Then, in Matthew 6:6,7,8 (NIV) “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

    Romans 8:26 (NIV) “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

    We know that God hears the prayers of the righteous, (the saints) or those who love/obey Him.

    Romans 8:12, 13 (NIV) “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation- but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

    John 14:12, 13, 14 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
    And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name. and I will do it.”

    Were you looking for something else?

    I do not believe in the “name it and claim it” doctrine or teaching, because then one might take to much liberty and be led to ask for things outside the will of God, making ungodly choices, which would not be Christ-like in behavior, or in accord with the intent of the scriptures.


  8. bubbles says:

    thank you.

  9. SFDBWV says:

    We watched a very interesting program on CNN last evening titled “To Heaven and Back”. The very idea that it was on CNN was interesting enough, but the stories are very well documented and undeniably believable.

    One spoke of talking with Jesus all returned knowing they had a purpose in living and one fully healed of multiple inoperable cancers.

    Each spoke of God’s love and none wanted to return to this life.

    The last was the most moving as it was told from multiple video clips a young man made after dying on 4 occasions over a period of time with a heart condition from birth. He shared his after death experiences on “U Tube” the last installment hours before his final journey from which he did not return.

    His mother quoted Philippians 4:7 tearfully.

    Will be burying an old friend tomorrow, life continues with all its sorrow and all its *purpose* as I have come to believe that each one of us is the answer to someone else’s prayer.


  10. oneg2dblu says:

    When we who’s lives have been changed by God hear another’s testimony about how God has changed their lives, then we can fully understand that which surpasses all worldly understanding, because we now walk as a living testimony ourselves when we profess and walk as Jesus Christ alive in us.
    We answer someone else’s prayers, when we walk by faith and not by sight, when we listen to His still small voice and not the clatter of the world, and when we obey His commands He knows we love Him, and we do not grieve the Holy Spirit when we follow His Holy Spirit’s prompting.
    Be Listening, be Led, be Blessed, and be an Answered Prayer for someone else today, Gary

  11. oneg2dblu says:

    I love the last comment made in today’s ODB:
    “Integrity is Christ-like character with workclothes.”

  12. poohpity says:

    When we come face to face with the consequences of some of the self imposed messes we have gotten ourselves into I have witnessed that blame usually follows. Jacob however did not blame but after suffering the seeds he had sown back at home through the hand of his uncle was left with a further seed in seeing his brother again, he feared.

    I know what it is like to not have any sleep and then have to address the next day with no energy, groggy and everything seems more intense than if I had had a good nights rest. Then on top of a lack of sleep losing that sleep due to exerting all energy by literally wrestling I can only imagine what that would be like, no fight left just operating on an automatic response mode. It was good that Jacob had already planned for the meeting ahead of time fearing for the worse. If he had to face his brother with no strength left and not enough people to come against the 400 men it probably would have been a total wipe out but God had a surprise in store for Jacob receiving something he did not deserve, forgiveness and restoration of a previously destroyed relationship.

    We seem to wrestle with God by not doing things His way or waiting on Him but thinking we can make things happen the way we think they should be, how we think it should be, in the time we think and the consequences usually fit which one we make a choice to follow. It took approximately 21 years for Jacob to stop fighting against God doing things his way to see that all the while God had a plan to prosper Jacob’s line that the Messiah would come from. All the deceit and broken relationships could have been adverted by living with quiet expectation that God’s promises would happen regardless of the mess we can make of things when we try and do things our way.

  13. poohpity says:

    If any of you have not seen the post from InHisHands, her son Joshua, that we have prayed for over the years died. Please read her comment in “The Kindness of Alois”.

  14. poohpity says:

    From InHisHands posted yesterday.

    Dear BTA friends
    It has been a long while since I commented, but I have followed along through this time.
    As with Alois, I believe – there may have been some in Israel who shared the fact that the death angel would be passing over and invited those who were their friends to stay with them for safety (though Scripture doesn’t say that specifically). Those who trusted their friends and had watched the miracles of the ONE TRUE GOD went in with them and were saved the heart ache of the loss that came. As it is today, we witness-but only those who believe and accept will be saved.

    I am asking for prayer – many of you have prayed with us for my youngest son, Joshua, through the times of trouble with the law and seizures. I was called Friday morning Nov. 29 and informed that he had died in his room. It appears he had a seizure and fallen breaking glass and cutting himself and since he was alone, he lost too much blood.

    Our greatest comfort is he professed his faith in Christ and was Baptized in evidence of that profession. We will be together again.

    Thank you in advance for all of your prayers. Please pray for financial needs, as this was so totally unexpected – we were not at all prepared for the upcoming costs. Thank you again.

  15. belleu says:

    I’m so sorry for this family’s loss and my prayers go out to them. It is wonderful that he was a believer and they will meet again in heaven.

    Wrestling with God. Both Jacob and Jesus did it but for different reasons, as Mart said.

    God told Jacob He would take him back home, but Jacob was still afraid. He thought the man was an enemy when it was God who had come to help him; so in his fear he fought Him. When he finally understood this was a heavenly being, he wouldn’t let go of him until he got a blessing. I think that is an example to us to not let God go until he helps us.

    Jesus was afraid of the pain in being separated from his Father by the sins of the world, and also the pain and shame of the cross. I guess Jesus struggled with his own will and his Father’s will there in the garden. For myself, I take this as an example to accept God’s will no matter what it is, no matter how painful.

    Why do we sometimes feel “roughed-up and abandoned” by God. I think it is somewhat like your story of the boy arm wrestling with his dad. We can’t understand why God lets us suffer so much when he is supposed to love us. We know we wouldn’t let our own children suffer like that so it doesn’t make sense. The struggle is in learning to accept God’s will in our lives.

    I will confess that in my struggle I have a very hard time believing God is love when I look at my life and the lives of people who are sold in human trafficking etc. I’ve learned to just keep asking God to help me believe he loves and for me to love him with all my heart. And I’m not letting go – God is my only hope and I know it.

  16. ajcatch79 says:

    Although I’m in pretty good health, sleepless nights have become more commonplace for me in the past 3 years. I’ve struggled financially and it has affected me in so many areas. My mind, in particular, is where I feel most overwhelmed. Even though I have a personal relationship with God, I find myself wondering if God is ever going to bless me with a better job so I can get out of debt and to a place of stability. I also have trouble trusting God to provide me with a husband and children (I’m almost 35 and dating is difficult when you have money problems). Every man I have ever cared about has walked away from me…without saying a word. The pain of rejection has left me feeling very inadequate and sometimes forgotten by God (even though I know that isn’t the case).

    I, like Jacob, feel myself fighting to hold on to the promises of God. And I’m encouraged by your article because it reminds me to continue seeking God–not just for the blessing but for closer proximity to the one who blesses us beyond measure with his unconditional love.

    Thank you,


  17. SFDBWV says:

    Good morning Andrea, stand fast with your faith as God is aware of your every need; your idea of a rescue and His may be different, but be assured He will rescue you and in the doing give you the desires of your heart.


  18. BruceC says:


    I will pray for you. Maybe it is God who is rejecting those possible mates as not right for you. God does work in strange ways.

    InHisHands and the whole family will be in prayer.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  19. cherielyn says:

    Deb (Pooh),

    SO SORRY to hear of your loss. It is hard to lose a loved one & seems even harder when it is a child, np matter what age. Parents are ‘supposed to go first’.

    You are in my prayers.



  20. poohpity says:

    Cheryl, it was not me it was InHisHands.

    God has given us a way to live then when people make a choice to not follow those guidelines and do horrible things, then think God is not love because He has allowed people to make their own choices is baffling to me. Either one has to believe God is love or He is not. I wonder if before a person does anything if they took time to ask God is this good or evil or even listen to their own conscience if the choices would not be different.

    When we pray for things do we want God’s will or our own. The thing about having the desires of our heart is if we delight our self in the Lord then He will give us the desires of our heart. If we do not delight in the Lord then those desires may not be what is best for us. Like a parent does not give a child everything they want just because they want it, the child ends up spoiled rotten and selfish which is not in the best interest of the child or those that child will come in contact with.

    Jacob wanted what he did not have so he deceived to get it even when it was promised to him before his birth but waiting for God’s timing and the way that would have benefited the whole family was not foremost on his mind. Jacob wanted what he wanted, when he wanted it and how he wanted it. Jesus on the other hand wanted God’s will above His own even if that meant going through what He knew He was going to go through and that is how we know that God is love.

  21. Artle says:

    So why then do so many of us feel roughed up, abandoned, and even left for dead by our Father in heaven?

    My thinking is it’s just a feeling of being roughed up, abandoned and left for dead. The same things happen to all (Matthew 5:45 NASB). When we maintain our thoughts on Jesus, the abandoned feeling goes away. When our thoughts stray, the abandoned feeling returns. When we stay focused on Jesus and we are moving toward Him, peace is the feeling. When we focus on us, the absence of peace is the feeling and we can end up feeling roughed up, abandoned and left for dead. But, for one who believes, it’s just a feeling. The reality is always, “Jesus loves me.”

    Be concerned if you wander off and don’t end up feeling roughed up and abandoned. Whatever comfort you have found is temporal.

    Just my thoughts, so measure them as needed.

  22. poohpity says:

    Feelings can be deceptive but Jesus loves me this I KNOW is the foundation. If you know something to be true then we will not rely on feelings which can easily be swayed this way or that like being tossed around by waves.

  23. mbwessg says:

    When I get to feeling low and need encouragement I go to other writers after I read the Bible. They have gone through so many instances of low confidence and tell how God helped them out of it. It is great to know that others feel as I do and found God’s answer for them. My favorites are C.S.Lewis, Philip Yancey, Lee Strobel, and many, many others – living and dead.

    As someone said – I think it was C. S. Lewis – we must tell our feelings to take a hike. They are immensely changeable and depend on our physical/mental state at the time. We must use our minds to commit to God and keep doing it, no matter how we feel. Believe me, I know how hard that can be at times. But, after some of these times God has come so close to me that I would not care if He even answered my prayer – His presence was enough and more.

    I think that we dwell so often on all the sins mentioned in the Bible that we forget about original sin – the belief we were conned into thinking – that we know as much as God. It is such an insiduous sin that we don’t often recognize it. Every sin we commit comes from that one place – we feel we know better than God how to run our own lives.

    This is my first time to comment on this site and I hope it is not the last. If my comments or prayers can help anyone, I am blessed.

  24. belleu says:

    Hello, mbwessg. I’ve just joined this site recently myself. I agree with what everyone said about feelings. We cannot believe them or live our life by them. I would say that I know God loves people but don’t feel it. I have to ignore those feelings.

    It is a sin to think we know better than God and I have committed that sin often. I have to tell myself I’m wrong. It is a temptation – something like the temptations of Christ in the wilderness. “Isn’t there an easier way?” Satan says to Jesus.

  25. cherielyn says:


    I posted a response to you in the previous blog. Sorry for my mistake. You are in my prayers.

    Deb (Pooh),
    I caught my mistake just after I posted & then ended up posting a response to InHisHands on the previous blog. Meds I am on are messing up my thinking processes & I’m not always reading everything correctly the first time. Need to take my time before I respond.

  26. poohpity says:

    Trust me Cheryl, I know how you feel with my meds. I have to read several times too and then have misread or misunderstood on top of it so you aint alone. Have you had any news otherwise on how effective your treatment has been?

  27. bubbles says:

    Cheryl, Here is a {{hug}} for you. I will pray for you tonight. Take care.

  28. cherielyn says:


    Pain frequency & intensity is quite decreased since radiation treatments. Will find out how much the tumor has shrunk at follow-up doctor appt & MRI in early January.

    Thanks for hugs & prayers.

  29. remarutho says:

    Good to hear a favorable report on the treatments, Cherielyn. The Lord bless and keep you.


  30. poohpity says:

    I know sometimes when I “feel” abandoned or roughed up by God are the times when my eyes have gone off Him to my circumstances. I try and remember all the promises that were made by Him that I will never be left alone because God is faithful. The more I have learned to see His Mighty Hand in the big things like creation then the more I can see His Hand in the small things and the more I learn about all His promises the more aware I become of His presence because I see the fulfillment. Then the “feelings” are not something that I pay that much attention to but learning to trust in the “knowing” brings more peace and comfort.

    Sometimes lessons are hard as well as life being hard but with the Lord in my life it sure does soften anything I am going through because I remember what it was like before and life is certainly better now as I have grown to see the Lord’s hand and learned to trust His heart.

  31. mbwessg says:

    I too get times when I feel I’m not doing enough to turn my life toward God. Often I wonder if I am really in His hands. But then I remember – God knows all and I must trust Him absolutely, ask for forgiveness for wrong things and keep going and trusting Him.

    I did make one huge mistake that I am trying to correct. I realized that when the Bible says to pray at all times, that it is very hard to do. Then I decided that in our minds we talk to ourselves every minute of the day. So, I just turned that outward towards God and sent all my thoughts His way. It worked fine for awhile, but Satan was even able to mess that up. I found I was doing all the talking and not taking enough time listening to God. Now I am trying to balance this and find more time to listen and absorb what God says. Please keep me in your prayers that I may conquer this problem.

  32. belleu says:

    I think you seem to be doing a great job with praying constantly. Satan will always make us feel we aren’t doing well enough so we will get discouraged. I think the verse that says, “Be anxious about nothing,” means our prayers too. It is good to aspire to do better, but don’t worry.

  33. poohpity says:

    When we think we have messed up it was already known by God and His grace is sufficient. We will never be able to do anything perfectly that is not the point but as we realize the magnitude of that imperfection the more we understand and experience the fullness of His grace.

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