Feeling some tension with a big choice? Engage 'wrestling mode.'

STUDENT MINISTRY | Kirk Marshall | 3 mins

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Maybe take up wrestling for a bit. No, not the sport. (Unless that’s your dream.)

Sometimes when we’re at major life transitions, we want a to-do list, or a how-to video, or a simple next step. We want a blueprint for success from someone who’s been down that road.

But the reality is, sometimes you have to wrestle for a little while. It’s OK to feel tension around a big choice you feel like you have to make about whether or not to go to college, what major to choose, which job makes most sense for you, what your long-term goals are, if you should break up with someone, or even about how you view the world.

When people feel tension as they’re facing a major decision, they usually slip into one of two modes. Stress Mode or Escape Mode.

Stress Mode. The tension consumes them. They get anxious about the outcomes. They get fixated on the choice. Depending on their personality, they might become incapable of choosing, or they might get irritable about everything until the tension is gone. I think King David is talking about being in Stress Mode in Psalm 31:9-13. The distress, sorrow, anguish, affliction, enemies, isolation, and terror—sounds like he was consumed by tension!

Escape Mode. They do whatever it takes to avoid the decision. Binge-watch, scroll, pursue other hobbies, change the subject—and sometimes they make an extreme outside-the-box choice just to avoid making the decision in front of them. Check out Jonah’s story (Jonah 1:1-3). Jonah didn’t like the Ninevites, but God told him to give them a message of hope. So what did Jonah choose? He chose to take a boat trip in the other direction.

There’s a third mode that’s way less common: Wrestling Mode. You don’t slip into it. You make a choice to engage Wrestling Mode, without being consumed by the tension or escaping the situation you’re in.

Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Accept your situation. “I have a major choice to make, and there’s a lot of tension.”
  2. Tell God what you feel. “I feel anxious and overwhelmed during this transition.”
  3. Engage Wrestling Mode. “I don’t know how long this tension is going to last, but I’m here in it. And I’m going to faithfully wrestle.”
  4. Decide what you really want from God, based on things he’s already promised you in the Bible. Blessing? Strength? Wisdom? Direction? Peace? Protection? Healing?
  5. Don’t disengage Wrestling Mode until you get what you’re asking God for…or until he tells you to stop wrestling. For real. Be stubborn in what you’re asking for, and ask for it because it’s been promised to you in the Bible.

Jacob engaged Wrestling Mode before he reunited with his vengeful brother Esau. He literally wrestled with God (Genesis 32). What he wanted from God was a blessing.

And Jesus engaged Wrestling Mode when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, because he knew he was about to be executed (Matthew 26). What He wanted from God was strength to do what was needed.

What’s the transition you’re in right now? Does it feel overwhelming? Are you anxious or worried? Are you feeling the tension? Instead of slipping into Stress Mode or Escape Mode, be intentional: engage Wrestling Mode. Decide what you really want from God. Then, commit to faithfully wrestling in that tension.


Written by

Kirk Marshall

Teacher, life-long learner, Crossroads Student Ministry creative director.

Published on May 28, 2020