Spiritual Wrestling


I had absolutely zero experience with the sport of wrestling.  That is until I was forced to figure it out when my kindergartner came home, and begged me to let him be a part of the wrestling program at school.  My husband and I thought it might be a good thing for him, since he has three sisters, and little boys can always use a good physical outlet. Little did I know how much grit it takes to be a "wrestler Mom". Please bear with me as I describe my first wrestling match experience, and I promise it will all come together at the end!

I stood there on the side of the mat with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I watched two little boys (neither of them were even mine), wrestle their little hearts out. While they gave it their all, their fathers were on the mats with them, cheering them on and telling them different moves and maneuvers to try in order to win the match. I was completely overwhelmed at the emotion of it all. One of the little boys looked up, with tears streaming down his bright red face. I would have given anything to run out there and scoop him up in my arms. But that brave little boy did not give up! He wiped the tears away, and got into position, and was ready to take on his opponent. I'll never forget that look of determination.

I think of that little boy’s face when I read Ephesians 6:12:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

A big part of the culture and media that surrounds us is strategically made to pin us down with addictions and lies. We have all seen the filth, and we have all heard the lies. What makes it even more sickening is how they pinpoint our children.  But how do we keep from getting put into a "full nelson" (see what I did there?)? And how do we keep our children from falling prey to this malicious opponent?


Sheri Dew said,

"Champion wrestlers tell me that it isn't necessarily the strongest wrestler who wins. It is the wrestler who knows how to leverage his strength to overpower his opponent.  Spiritual wrestling leverages the strength of true doctrine to overpower our weaknesses, our wavering faith, and our lack of knowledge.  Spiritual wrestlers are seekers.  They are men and women of faith who want to understand more than they presently do and who are serious about increasing the light and knowledge in their lives."

We are the little boy on the mat, but we are also the parent on the sidelines. We have to figure out how to leverage our strengths in order to overpower our opponent, and we also have to teach our children how to do the same. Every day we grapple with the adversary, so sharpening our skills is essential. While I studied this topic two “spiritual wrestling” skills stood out to me. Obviously God has given us oodles of tools and skills, but I wanted to talk about two that may not be so obvious.

1  |  The Gift of Discernment. In Isaiah 5:20 we are warned, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" We have to be able to see through those who would “call evil good”. We do this through the spirit, because the “spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be...” Jacob 4:13).  Julie Beck said that "the ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.... It requires a conscious effort."  The gift of discernment requires acting on those promptings, feelings, and guidance we receive. Here are a few ideas as to how to practice:

  • Help your children (and yourself) be critical of the messages of the world. Ask them questions like “Was there anything in that movie that goes against what we know and teach in our family?”, “Was there anything in that song that made you uncomfortable?”, “Do you really think that buying that thing can make someone happy?”, "What are they trying to sell here?"
  • Help you children (and yourself) recognize when the spirit is testifying of goodness with questions like: “How did you feel when you prayed this morning?”, “How did it make you feel when you were serving that person?”, “What do you feel when you look at a beautiful sunset?”.

2  |  Using our failures as opportunities. Walking onto the mat means at times we will lose, and we have to be okay with that. Christ, the champion of our souls, is the only one who will NEVER lose a match. Kevin Worthen said,

“Failing is an essential part of the mortal phase...Failure is an inevitable part of the quest. In our quest for perfection, how we respond when we fail will ultimately determine how well we will succeed.”

So how can we fail successfully?

  • Value experience. If your child burns their piece of toast because they set the timer for 4 minutes, point out that because of her experience, she will now know the perfect time to cook toast. In other words, focus on what you learned from the experience, not at the point of failure. Bruce Hafen explained “because of the Atonement, we can learn from our mistakes without being condemned by them.”
  • Ask your children what they "failed" at this week, and what they learned because of it. Emphasizing how wonderful it is to try and learn something new.
  • Trust in God. When I fail, it is so easy to think “I’m just not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough…”. But the real question I should be asking myself is, “is God good enough?” Meaning do I really believe He can do what He said he can? Do I really believe that everything I experience will be for my good? If I believe that, and if I trust Him, then it’s all about what I can do WITH God.

Sometimes the wrestle seems overwhelming. Sometimes we just want to roll-over and hide. It isn’t easy. The thought of sending my child out onto the mat seems gut-wrenching at times. But we have to remember one thing, Kevin Worthen said it perfectly: “Because of the Atonement, all failures are changeable and temporary, except the one that occurs when we give up. So whatever you do, don’t you dare give up.”

Remember the dad lying on the side of the mat? He won’t ever give up. Not only did he encourage and cheer his child on, he gave specific instructions on how to win. Things they had practiced before the meet. He reminded the boy of his strengths and when to use them. We have a loving Father in Heaven doing the same for us. We also have a Savior who has been through every wrestling match possible, and he knows the way to conquer. So when you feel defeated, wipe the tears out of your eyes, and remember “in whom you have trusted”, because with a team like that we are promised a victory.

copy + images by
kim stoddard

feature image by
tiffany webster