Origins Part 3: Wrestling with God Study Guide

Thanks for joining us online this weekend! Continuing our study through “Origins: The Dreamers,” Pastor Doug Sauder taught from Genesis 32. In this message, we explored one of the most famous moments in the Old Testament: the moment Jacob wrestled with God. We received encouragement as we discovered that we’re not alone in our struggles, that God is always with us, and that when we struggle with God, it transforms our struggle with others!

Dive deeper into this teaching on your own, with your family, or in your online group! Watch the video below to see a recap of this weekend’s teaching. You can also scroll down to check out expanded notes and summaries from the teaching, family discussion prompts and small group questions, and get informed on some of the great resources available to you.

To watch the message in its entirety, click here.


Let’s recap some of the key talking points from Pastor Doug’s message:

You Are Not Alone in Your Struggle (Genesis 32:1–21): In this moment, after leaving his father-in-law’s home and now being pursued by his brother Esau, we’re told that Jacob was “greatly afraid and distressed” (Genesis 32:7 NKJV).

But he wasn’t alone. Here, we see God sent two angels to remind Jacob He was with him. You see, Jacob wasn’t just being pursued by Esau, he was being pursued by the Lord. Friends, God pursues His children with His goodness, mercy, protection, and provision.

And now, being reminded God was there with him, Jacob acted with both wisdom and faith in the midst of this scary situation. He split his camp in two so his entire family and wealth wouldn’t be completely destroyed if Esau were to attack, but he also prayed to the Lord in a way we should follow when we face a crisis today. Through his prayer, it was clear Jacob recalled God’s character and faithfulness to his fathers, that Jacob remembered God’s commands to him, and he expressed gratitude and humility before the Lord before making his requests and concerns known to God. As we face the different crises and circumstances that come our way, may we always react as Jacob did—with faith and wisdom.

God Wants You to Struggle with Him (Genesis 32:24–30): At this point, Jacob was done looking for other options. He was done trying to steal blessings or manipulate his way into blessings. He wanted a real blessing, no matter the cost.

Have you ever wrestled with God—over your past, over your choices, over the circumstances and struggles of your life? Friends, God wants you to wrestle alongside Him; to hold on with endurance and tenacity as Jacob did.

Jacob wrestled God all night . . . Why? Why so long? Because the struggle is important for the journey. God wanted Jacob to realize that his real struggle all along had been with Him. And this wrestle was intended to bring Jacob to a place of submission. But then we’re told something strange: “He saw that He did not prevail against him.” Does this mean God was not strong enough to take down Jacob? Obviously, He was. John Gill explained “that the Son of God in the form of man, prevailed not against Jacob, by casting him to the ground, or causing him to desist and leave off wrestling with him; not because he could not, but because he would not, being willing to encourage the faith of Jacob against future trials and exercises, and especially under his present one.”

He wanted to lift Jacob up to a new royal life, so He wrestled with him to compel him to yield. God didn’t overpower him or take him down because this was not a struggle for God. It was Jacob’s struggle, and it was necessary for his own growth. He needed to reach a point where he had no more strength.

So, in order to transform him, God knocked Jacob’s hip out of socket because Jacob had a tendency to lean on his own strength. Imagine wrestling with all your might all night and yet with one touch you are brought to the place of submission. From that moment on, with a hip out of joint, Jacob could no longer run or lean on his own power. Instead, he had to lean on God. He was brought to the point of genuine faith and surrender, and God wants the same for us!

Then, after the struggle, God asked Jacob his name. Why? Because Jacob had to come to grips and acknowledge who he was—Jacob means “usurper,” and as we have seen in his life, he displayed selfish, manipulative, stubborn traits—in order to embrace his new identity. He was now Israel, which means “governed by God.” This was his new identity. No longer self-reliant, Israel would need to stand in faith and rely on the Lord. And if we want to be strong, we, too, must rely on Him and His strength, from a place of submission and weakness.

If You Struggle with God, It Will Transform Your Struggle with Others (Genesis 33:3–5): When we struggle with God—not against Him—and are transformed by Him, it will change the way we interact with and struggle with others. You see, by faith we can trust that God has gone before us, that God is providing for and protecting us in everything, working out His great purposes and plans. After his night of wrestling, Jacob was able to have this kind of faith.

And as we see, God had gone before Jacob, working in Esau’s heart so they were able to have a beautiful reunion. There was forgiveness and joy. We’re told that Esau sprinted to meet Jacob, not in anger, but in love. They wept together, and all their previous history of strife, conflict, and enmity was exterminated. There was reconciliation. This is the power of God to reconcile, to heal, to restore, and to show His favor!

Quote to Remember: Today, God is asking you a question . . . What’s your name?—Pastor Doug Sauder


As you think about this weekend’s teaching, here are a few questions to reflect on and consider with your family, your circle of friends, or in your group.

Ice-Breaker: Let’s play the name game! Do you know what your name means? If not, take a few minutes to Google it. Do you know why you were given that name? Is it a family name? As a group, share what each person’s name means!

Discussion Question 1: This weekend, Pastor Doug shared the encouraging truth that you are not alone in your struggles! The Lord is always with you, providing and protecting, guiding and pouring out His goodness, mercy, and grace. How have you experienced the presence of God in difficult seasons? 

Discussion Question 2: Discuss a time where you wrestled with decisions, issues, situations, or seasons in life. What did God teach you in the wrestle? 

Discussion Question 3: What does it mean to wrestle with God? Why is it actually beneficial and important for us to wrestle with God? If you’ve never really wrestled with God, what’s holding you back?

Discussion Question 4: After his encounter with God, Jacob had a permanent limp. Similarly, Paul carried a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7–10 NIV) and was told by God, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” What sort of limp can we have after an encounter with God? What has this limp looked like in your life? How has it changed you?

Discussion Question 5: Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which means “governed by God.” What a picture of the work God wants to do in each of our lives! He wants us to move from being a Jacob to being an Israel. Ultimately, His goal is to make us people who don’t lean on our own strength, but who are governed by God. What does it mean to be an Israel?


Ponder: Why did God wrestle with Jacob all night? Why so long? In your quiet time this week, consider your own life and the wrestling matches you’ve endured. How can you relate to Jacob’s long wrestling match? What has God shown you?

Practice: If you struggle with God, it will transform your struggle with others. In his encounter with Esau, we see Jacob’s character change. We see humility replace arrogance, courage replace cowardice, and reconciliation replace conflict. Like Jacob and Esau, is there someone you’re in conflict with? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and govern you in working through that conflict. Ask the Lord to work in your heart and the heart of the person you’re in conflict with—wrestle with Him in this.

Pray: As you pray this week, remember to thank the Lord for the new name He has given you . . . son or daughter, saint, ambassador, disciple, royal priesthood, heir of the kingdom. Praise Him for what He calls you!


Parents, here are a few questions to go over with your kids around the dinner table or during dedicated family times.

1. Tell us about a time when you had a really bad day. Did someone make you sad or angry or annoyed? On that day, did you think about God’s promise that He will always be with you and never leave you?

2. Was there a time this week when you had the option to make the right decision or the wrong decision? If you made the right decision, are you glad you did? If you made the wrong decision, did you learn anything about why it’s important to make the right decision?

3. Do you have a question for God? Or maybe you have a question about God. That’s awesome! Asking those big and scary questions is so important for our relationship with Jesus!

4. Can you remember when you graduated from Kindergarten? Did you get a certificate or picture for you to remember it? It’s an awesome milestone that you moved on to 1st grade! Do you think something like that can help you remember that God loves you and is always with you?

5. Even though your name hasn’t actually changed, did you know that when you believe in Jesus and ask him to forgive your sins God calls you a son/daughter? WOAH! Tonight, before you go to sleep, pray and thank God for making you his son/daughter.


We have several exciting Bible plans available for you to subscribe to! From a reading plan to follow along with our “Origins” series to plans on experiencing peace, overcoming anger, or dealing with pride, we have a variety of awesome resources for you to grow in your faith and study the Word of God.

To view our reading plans, click here.


As we continue to track the news and information about COVID-19 and its effects both worldwide and right here in our surrounding cities, this week we will continue to hold services ONLINE, as well as some at our Summer Nights events.

Join us this Wednesday evening for a powerful time of prayer, worship, and reflection as we lift up the name of Jesus. Then on this Independence Day weekend, we’ll hear from Pastor Doug about the dream of America and the fight for true freedom.

We look forward to spending another awesome week with you!

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About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.