When we think of Israel we usually think first of the country. We need to remember that Israel is first of all a person, aka Jacob. The younger twin who stole the blessing ,a thief and a liar, but who will be the father of the twelve tribes. Before he can go from being Jacob to being Israel, he must wrestle with God.
He is in this sense most, if not all, of us on our journey of faith. Before we reach that faith of absolute trust, absolute submission to the will of God, often it is the case that something has to happen in our lives that causes us really wrestle. The scene in Genesis is not playful wrestling, it a contest, a fight, and in the end the man walks away with a limp, a permanent reminder. But he walks away no longer Jacob but Israel.
God lets him wrestle. God even lets him believe at one point he is winning. We can only imagine, the frustration, the anger, the determination to win that Jacob felt. But in the end it is only surrender that brings about his conversion, his transformation.
If we look back at the great saints we see hundreds of Jacob moments in their lives. I remember how shocked some people were when we heard about Mother Teresa's Jacob moment. And of course there were those who try to romanticize the stories stripping away the wrestling, stripping away the pain, leaving only the faith.
Genesis reminds us that it's ok to wrestle. But be prepared. You might get hurt. And in the end you are going to loose, because we have to loose in order to truly win. There can be only one Lord of our lives and it cannot be ourselves.