Grapple means to engage in a close fight or struggle without weapons or, more plainly, to wrestle. A grappling hook or grapnel is a device with multiple hooks (known as claws or flukes), attached to a rope; it is thrown, dropped, sunk, projected, or fastened directly by hand to where at least one hook may catch and hold. Generally, grappling hooks are used to temporarily secure one end of a rope. Historically, grappling hooks were used in naval warfare to catch ship rigging so that it could be boarded.
Grappling is as old as mankind. Here’s a biblical example of grappling (Gen 32:22-28). In the book of Genesis, Esau, was marching towards Jacob with 400 men. While his brothers company looked formidable and even warlike, Jacob wondered at his brother’s intent. Did Esau still hold a grudge against him over the lost inheritance? And was this force part of a planned attack to regain it? It certainly looked that way. Jacob was a man of faith and remembered God’s promise: “I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.” But, still, Jacob decided to take action on his own. He split his people into two groups so at least half would survive. Then, as a further precaution, he sent gifts to Esau, hoping the offering would appease him and he could avoid battle altogether. Finally, when all his preparations were completed he escorted his family to safety.
Jacob found himself alone, walking back to his camp. If the confrontation with his brother went badly, he stood to lose everything, his family, his flocks and his inheritance. There was so much at risk. Such moments of extreme uncertainty and powerlessness can generate intense anxiety. Alone, in the dark with his thoughts, he must have felt like he wished there was more he could do. There was.
He met an angel and realized that there really was only one thing that would help him. He grappled the angel, God’s representative, and did not let go until he received a blessing. Throughout the night, he wrestled. Exhausted and injured he kept hold, not letting the angel go until he was satisfied. In the end his determination, discipline and devotion won him God’s blessing.
In our current world, grappling is common. Here is a worldly example. Things had been going well in Santiago’s life. He’d been sober for 6 months, a new record for him and the main reason his ex-wife had agreed to let him visit their 5-year-old daughter for the first time in 4 years. It was a major breakthrough for him, he knew. For as long as he could remember he had pictured the perfect life as one where he provided for his family and they loved him in return. He also knew that he allowed drugs and alcohol to destroy that dream. Now, as he walked from the bus stop to the meeting place where he might finally begin to realize a piece of that dream, he thought of his daughter. What would he say to her? Would she be smiling? Would she even recognize him? What would she think of him? Once, when he was still married, his ex-wife asked him how alcohol could be more important than she was. The question struck his chest like a spear. Unable to answer, he increased his drinking and drug use to plug the whole in his heart left by her sharp words. What if his daughter asked the same question? Or even looked at him like she wanted to? How could he answer it? How could he bare it?
He walked on in silence, brooding the answer he might give. There was nothing he could say to her. Suddenly, shame drowned his spirit as if he were at the bottom of a cold lake. He struggled to breathe. He stopped and bent over trying to calm himself. Looking up he saw that he stood in front of a liquor store. Without hesitation, he went in.
Grappling as Idolatry
Disease, injury, depression, anxiety, anger and fear are painful. Throughout our lives we strive to relieve the pain associated with them. From an early age we learned to seek the blessing of relief in various ways, many of them ungodly. By watching parents, friends, caretakers and role models handle their pain improperly, we learned well. Many believe that there is no other way except the way we were taught.
Here are some things we grapple to get relief. Most aren’t sinful in themselves. Eating, exercise, spending, working long hours, watching TV, computer games become sin when they take time away from our families, jobs and, most importantly, God. Then there are things we grapple that are sinful even in moderation like drugs, alcohol, pornography, crime and fornication.
With any of them, when we grapple demanding the blessing of relief they become false Gods. They become idols. They do seem to work for a short time but what makes them so terrible is that they have devastating, eternal, consequences. For a real blessing that lasts forever, we need to take Jacob’s example and grapple with God.
Grapple with God
Grappling with God can be done with the help of a 4-pronged grappling hook.
Prong 1: Pray at least twice a day. The Bible doesn’t put any requirements on the number of times to pray each day. We can pray more if we want, but don’t pray less than twice. The first thing, upon waking every day, is to pray. This is important because you should plan your day with God. You should pray about other things too, but you should talk to God like he’s your friend and father, telling Him what you are going to do that day, who you might meet, where you are going, what problems you might run into. As humans, we can never anticipate everything we will experience but we can anticipate most things. We all have at least a fair idea of the people, places, things and events that can tempt us or trigger stress or fear. Work out with God what you will do if those things happen. Many times, the things you prepare for will also prepare you for similar situations, making your plans useful even if they don’t happen exactly as you thought. Listen to what God has to say about each.
As you go through your day, remember your talk with God. Do your best to either avoid the difficult situations or act according to God’s principles if you can’t.
Pray one more time before bed. Talk with God about how you did during the day. What things went right, what went wrong. Don’t hold anything back. God knows what you did whether you tell him or not, anyway. Ask Him how could you have done things differently. Repent of your sins by expressing your sorrow and promising God you will try harder tomorrow. Remember that God loves a repentant heart (Luke 18:9-14). Praying like that Publican did will help develop your relationship with God to one that is interactive, intimate and immediate.
Prong 2: Read the Bible. Prong 1 won’t work very well if you do not understand how and what God is communicating with you. The Bible is God’s word and it is as true today as it was thousands of years ago when he used His Word to create the world (2 Timothy 3:16). As you gain knowledge of His Word it becomes clearer as he speaks to you. The Bible is long and can be intimidating to new readers. Don’t get discouraged, you don’t have to read a lot, just consistently. Start by reading for 10 minutes a day. Once you get used to reading the Bible every day, you’ll soon find yourself not wanting to put it down. Before long you will be reading whole books in one sitting.
Prong 3: You need at least one man or woman of God our life. This is a person you talk too about your life and your faith on a regular basis. The person you choose doesn’t have to be a minister or a pastor, but they need to follow God in every aspect of their life. The basic qualifications are as follows:
1. It needs to be someone your pastor approves of.
2. They must read and know the Bible.
3. They are not judgmental but demonstrate Christ’s love by being faithful, confidential and supportive even when you have sinned.
4. They will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
5. You must respect them.
6. Unless you are married to them, they must be of the same gender.
Make sure you talk with them at least once a week, holding nothing back. Be honest with them about how many times you did pray and read the Bible and allow them to hold you accountable. Tell them about your talks with God. Ask questions and get clarification on the interpretation of what He told you. Call them when you need help making it past temptation and get help getting past it. If you do not feel comfortable doing any of that they may not be a good fit.
Prong 4: Attending church regularly is absolutely necessary. Church It’s in church where you will find the person of God for our lives and where you will learn how to correctly divide His Word (2 Timothy 2:15). But one of the most important reasons to go to church is to serve. It is in church where we learn to follow and follow Christ’s commandments (Mark 12:31), start our commission (Mat 28:19-20), and to help others ( 1 Corinthians 1:4).
It’s So Simple It's Hard
It’s as easy and as hard as that. It’s easy because if you can incorporate the simple routine of the grappling hook into your daily life with a sincere effort to follow God’s commandments, you will succeed. It’s hard, because it involves discipline to keep the routine. It means putting God first. Others in your life won’t necessarily like that and may discourage you. You probably won’t face the kind of persecution the Apostles faced, but even mild persecution is effective in steering us off the path (Mat 7:14). Learning how to reject temptation is also hard, like some things you find comfortable and soothing but fit into the idol category. Can you get up earlier each day to pray? Stay up a little later? Be honest with your man or woman of God? Evaluate the people in your life who please you but lead you astray?
Follow this process and you will mature spiritually and develop a strong relationship with God that will maximize His blessings. Jacob grappled with God and went on to father the twelve tribes, the foundation of three of the world’s greatest religions. What can you accomplish when we do so? (2 Timothy 4:18)